Food safety education hasn’t hit me yet

Toronto-based Blue Rodeo’s Five Days in July was my favorite album of 1993 (at least the first 6 tunes). The song, Hasn’t Hit Me Yet, remains evocative. I got to meet-and-greet the band at one of those corporate concert thingies when they performed for the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributers in 2003.

Chapman got to see them last night somewhere in North Carolina (right, exactly as shown). About 100 people showed up.

I talk about good music because it makes me smile. When I hear about how people want to educate consumers, it makes me frown.

Some people write in peer-reviewed journals, some people pontificate. Me and Chapman and some Blue Rodeo groupies have written several papers about how to get the attention of food handlers, at home, in food service or on the farm, in the same way a catchy tune gets peoples’ attention.

Others say, educate consumers.

Kansas State University meat scientist James Marsden says he hears it over and over again – that there’s a need to better educate consumers about proper food handling and cooking. Such an effort could go a long way in minimizing the risk of foodborne illness.

Maybe Marsden should listen to other folks. Marsden did acknowledge, that food safety is everyone’s responsibility – from the producer to the processor to the consumer.

I’m all for providing food safety information in a compelling, creative and critically-sound manner. However education is something people do themselves.

Lewis Lapham wrote in Harper’s magazine in the mid-1980s about how individuals can choose to educate themselves about all sorts of interesting things, but the idea of educating someone is doomed to failure. Oh, and it’s sorta arrogant to state that others need to be educated; to imply that if only you understood the world as I understand the world, we would agree and dissent would be minimized.

These may be subtle semantics – to communicate with rather than to; to inform rather than educate – but they set an important tone.

I know this is repetitive. Guess it hasn’t hit me yet.