Source food from safe sources – the missing component in food safety communications

Tomorrow is Canada Day, the celebration of the July 1, 1867 enactment of the British North America Act, which united Canada as a single country of four provinces. Saturday is Independence Day in the U.S., commonly known as the Fourth of July, a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Both occasions have turned into annual orgies of bad food safety advice on both sides of the 49th parallel.

OK, bad is a strong word. But the advice is certainly incomplete; and puts the blame for any outbreaks of foodborne illness squarely on the shoulders of consumers.

For example, “The government of Canada reminds Canadians about the importance of food safety during the summer months.” Compelling reading. And then a $5.5 billion-a-year company, Maple Leaf, can do no better than parrot  government advice, which is convenient, since it says nothing about buying cold-cuts that won’t make people barf.

Maple Leaf’s so-called blog, which is updated about once-a-week, is entitled, Our Journey to Food Safety Leadership. What PR genius thought up this blog name? Shouldn’t they already be food safety leaders? I don’t want to be on a journey with them (and Journey is a terrible band) while Maple Leaf figures out food safety.

The U.S. is no better with its “Independence Day: Drills for the grill.” Seriously, who comes up with this stuf? Oh, and the U.S. Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education has a new leader, but the same incomplete messages (and same terrible title).

But change may yet happen. Given all the outbreaks – produce, pet food, peanut butter, that have nothing to do with consumers, it’s time any food safety messaging campaign included what the World Heath Organization has been advocating since 2002 – source food from safe sources (an evaluation of message effectiveness should also be a bare minimum and rarely happens).

The U.S. National Restaurant Association encourages restaurant and foodservice operators to begin planning for the 15th annual National Food Safety Education Month, held every September and focuses on the importance of food safety education for the restaurant and foodservice industry.

This year’s theme is "Food Safety Thrives When You Focus on Five."

Each week will focus on one of the five barriers:

Purchasing food from unsafe sources
Failing to cook food adequately
Holding food at incorrect temperatures
Using contaminated equipment
Practicing poor personal hygiene

Finally, a group starts to get it right. Now, about that evaluation …