Walk the Food Safety Talk

June is Safety Month! Are you preparing and serving foods safely? I’ve talked with sanitarians that don’t eat away from home. I know food safety instructors that won’t eat at pot luck dinners. I personally have been known to not eat something because I had a concern about the safety of the food. As dietitians and health educators, we know too much!

However, it is important for us to use our knowledge for good.

Avoiding conditions that make us question the safety of the food doesn’t change the situation. In fact, other people might become sick because of our silence. This point was really brought home to me at a couple of recent events in my community...

The first was at my gourmet dining group. At this group, we develop menus and eat at several different homes each month. The goal of this group is to expand our horizons when it comes to preparing and eating foods. There are also tons of fun social aspects.

I was recently involved in a planning session that featured two recipes with raw eggs. I didn’t object to the foods themselves, but I was very assertive when I stressed that we needed to use pasteurized eggs in these recipes. I volunteered to purchase the pasteurized shell eggs and deliver them to the appropriate cooks. As I stood on my soapbox, the members of this planning group looked at me like I had grown horns. I, on the other hand, saw it as a teachable moment. People in my community know that I teach about food safety. If I let this slide and didn't mention my concerns, I would be being irresponsible.

My husband found himself in a similar situation. He says he knows too much, too, just from living with me.

My husband belongs to a local service club that prepares and sells food several times a year as a fundraiser. He watched their practices for a while and finally felt that he needed to say something about the food safety and sanitation of the operation. When talking with the group, he stressed both their liability and the fact that they really didn’t want to get a customer sick. He brought in thermometers and plastic gloves, offering some basic food safety recommendations (he had some help at home before he went to that meeting).

Some of his concerns fell on deaf ears, since many people felt that safety precautions were unnecessary. They said, “this is the way they’ve always done it” and no one has gotten sick yet. Other people recognized the risks and encouraged their dissenting peers to change their practices. My husband continues to emphasize the importance of correct practices at these events. For many, old habits are hard to break.

Sometimes we find ourselves in awkward positions. We do know too much. Let’s share this knowledge. We have to walk the food safety talk.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

For some helpful food safety education resources, check out the selection at the Nutrition Education Store...

Food Safety Poster and Handout Set
Kids' Kitchen Savvy Program
Food Safety Bookmarks
Food Safety PowerPoint Presentation
Now it's time for a bonus! Here's a free food safety handout, uploaded just for you. You can email it to your clients, distribute it at your next wellness fair, or make it a part of a display or bulletin board. The possibilities are endless! Food Safety Handout