Due to my work, I have learned a lot about food safety. But no matter what I say, friends and family think I’m too finicky, and they continue to take what I think are unnecessary risks. How can I get my message across?
Don’t be discouraged. It’s often difficult for people to distinguish between words to the wise and the cries of Chicken Little. But at least some of your guidance about practical food safety measures just might sink in over time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that each year, about 1 in 6 Americans get a case of foodborne illness. Most people recover within a few days, but of those estimated 48 million cases, 128,000 result in hospitalizations, and 3,000 are fatal.
Some foodborne illnesses can cause long-lasting effects, including kidney failure (from some types of E. coli bacteria), chronic arthritis (occasionally from infections from Shigella, Salmonella or Campylobacter), and brain and nerve damage (possible from Campylobacter and, in infants, from Listeria).
So, food safety guidance shouldn’t just be shrugged off. But too commonly, it is. Recent research reveals that 64 percent of families admit to not using a food thermometer regularly to check the temperature of meat and poultry, and 33 percent aren’t using different or freshly cleaned cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination between raw meat and produce.
You might suggest that your friends and family get online and take a look at http://www.foodsafety.gov, a one-stop shop for food safety-related information from the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Currently, the site features “Recipes for Disaster,” a new campaign with pointed messages on food safety, co-sponsored by the Ad Council.
Included is a listing of 10 common food safety myths (explaining, for example, why the “smell test” for leftovers doesn’t hold up) and an accompanying list of dangerous food safety mistakes to avoid.
You can also point them to Ohio State University’s Food Safety website at http://foodsafety.osu.edu. The experts behind that site also offer a food safety hotline at 800-752-2751 (Ohio only) or email@example.com.
Perhaps with the weight of that kind of expertise behind you, your friends and family will begin to heed your warnings. Let’s hope it doesn’t take a case of foodborne illness to do that.
Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: This column was reviewed by Linnette Goard, field specialist in Food Safety, Selection and Management, for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
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OSU Extension, Food Safety, Selection and Management