PHOENIX — Many people say a huge part of the burden of food safety depends on consumers, but a key takeaway from a session here today was that consumers can’t practice what they haven’t been taught. The presentation was part of the annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection.
The session “After 2020, Where Do We Go Next in Enhancing Consumer Food Safety Education?” asked many questions and answered some. Unanswered questions, many of which are unknown at this point, will likely come to the forefront during the next decade according to Michael Roberson of Publix Supermarkets.
Roberson and other panelists — Sharmi Das of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Shelley Feist or the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE), Arlington, VA — all talked about the educational roles of government, non-profits and industry.
One topic discussed is the increasing use of food delivery services. Feist said it is a vehicle to help educators communicate food safety practices for yet another situation. A key practice is hand washing, which is often forgotten by consumers when handling food delivered to their homes.
Feist also said research has shown that the polar opposite of delivered food — food cooked from recipes in the home — also scores poorly in terms of hand washing. She said one study showed only 59 percent of people used some form of hand washing when appropriate. A USDA study showed that 74 percent of people do not properly wash their hands to remove pathogens.
When hand washing instructions are included in recipes the number of people washing their hands jumped to 90 percent. Similar results were shown with thermometer use. The studies showed only 20 percent and 34 percent of people used thermometers while cooking. But, if thermometer instructions were included as steps in the recipe the number of people jumped to 86 percent.
Other basic food safety messages must be told and retold as the consuming public grows and changes. Just because this generation learned about food safety there is no excuse to not educate the next generation, even though they may have smarter kitchens.
Roberson said “futurology” is becoming reality as phones and kitchen appliances do more and more for us. But no matter how advanced the technology becomes some things will remain in the spotlight.
Refrigerators and toasters will have touch screens and special disinfecting lighting will be added to kitchens, but safe food handling and hand washing will remain issues. Consumer education will be the only way to address such points.
Editor’s note: Technical difficulties at the IAFP meeting site in Phoenix disrupted the virtual presentation for more than 30 minutes at the beginning of this session. Therrefore this story does not include comments from Sharmi Das of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A recording of the full session will be available on the IAFP website.