The restaurant industry holds a long-standing commitment to food safety training, and new National Restaurant Association (NRA) research shows that consumers overwhelmingly value that commitment. To highlight the importance of food safety, the NRA will hold its National Food Safety Month (NFSM) campaign this September with the theme “Be Safe, Don’t Cross-Contaminate.” Now in its 18th year, NFSM 2012 offers free resources for both foodservice industry professionals and home cooks

New NRA research shows that the majority of consumers find food safety important both at restaurants and at home. According to an August 2012 survey of 1,015 American adults, virtually all (96%) say it is important to them to know that the restaurants they visit train employees in food safety. In addition, more than eight out of 10 (81%) say they would be more likely to visit a restaurant that trains all its employees in proper food safety practices.

When it comes to cooking at home, virtually all consumers say they have at least basic knowledge of food safety. Sixty-three percent say they are aware of proper food safety practices and always follow them, while 33% say they are familiar with some food safety practices and follow those when they can.

“Food safety is a priority year-round for the nation’s nearly one million restaurant and foodservice outlets and we celebrate that commitment with September’s National Food Safety Month,” says Paul Hineman, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association. “Our industry serves 130 million guests daily, making food safety training critical for restaurant employees. But, practicing food safety at home is just as important, which is why we’re also providing tips for home cooks through this year’s campaign.”

NFSM highlights components of the NRA’s ServSafe Food Safety program – the leading source of food safety training and certification for restaurant and foodservice industry professionals for nearly 40 years, with more than 5 million certifications issued. Because ServSafe is developed by the NRA, proceeds go toward helping improve the foodservice industry through research and education.

The NRA’s survey showed that three-quarters (76%) of consumers say they would be more confident in a restaurant that displays food safety training certificates in public areas. Currently, less than two out of five (37%) have ever noticed food safety training certificates displayed in restaurants; younger consumers are much more likely to have noticed such certificates, as nearly half (49%) of 18 to 44-year olds say they have seen food safety certifications displayed, compared with only one-fifth (21%) of consumers age 55 and above.

This year’s NFSM is sponsored by SCA, a global hygiene company and makers of the Tork® brand away-from-home paper products. The NRA selected SCA as the sponsor of the campaign due to the company’s commitment to food safety education and dedication to hygiene product solutions.

“We work diligently to help our customers understand the critical and often hidden hygiene hazards restaurants face that can lead to serious food safety issues if not properly addressed,” says Suzanne Cohen, Foodservice Marketing Director for SCA Tissue North America. “Everyone benefits from a healthy, safe and welcoming restaurant and as a result patrons will return again and again. That is why we are partnering with the National Restaurant Association to help educate our industry on vital food safety issues.”

The free National Food Safety Month 10-minute training materials for restaurant employees are broken down into five weekly sessions, with each covering how to prevent cross-contamination through: personal hygiene; hand washing; cleaning and sanitizing; correct storage, preparation and cooking; and how to prevent cross-contact of food allergens.

National Food Safety Month was created in 1994 to heighten the awareness about the importance of food safety education. Each year, a new theme with training resources is created to help reinforce proper food safety practices and procedures. For more information and resources, visit the NFSM website, ServSafe on Facebook, or join the conversation on Twitter using #foodsafetymonth.

The Tork brand offers professional hygiene products and services to customers ranging from restaurants and healthcare facilities to offices, schools and industries. Products include dispensers, paper towels, toilet tissue, soap, napkins, and industrial and kitchen wipers. Through expertise in hygiene, functional design and sustainability, Tork has become a market leader. Tork is a global brand of SCA, and a committed partner to customers in over 80 countries.