A food recall may be an opportunity to have a dialogue with consumers, Shelley Feist, executive director at the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE), told participants at the North American Millers’ Association Annual Meeting held at the Salamander Resort and Spa.
After a year that has seen a number of recalls and food safety issues, it is important for flour millers to know that there are resources and partnerships available to them that may be utilized to educate and communicate with consumers on best practices for cooking with flour.
On Sept. 9 Ms. Feist spoke to the assembled millers about how her organization is working to spread information about food safety. The PFSE is a coalition of companies, associations and government agencies from across the food spectrum focused on educating and supporting health and food safety educators. Ms. Feist said her group utilizes these educators as a conduit for food safety information to the consumer.
The food safety educators the PFSE targets include academia, the K-12 school system, public health groups and the food retail sector. The organization utilizes free webinars, knowledgeX events and free consumer food safety education materials that may be found at www.fightbac.org.
A contributing partner to the PFSE, NAMA’s relationship has been vital due to the challenges faced by the industry in 2016.
“Food recalls are often an opportunity to talk about handling or cross contamination,” Ms. Feist said.
When the flour recall story dominated the national media, Ms. Feist said PFSE did a fair amount of communicating about the fact that flour is a raw commodity, cookies need to be cooked and don’t eat raw dough.
“The evolution of what we have been doing is that it is really best done with individual companies engaged in a moment,” she said. “Yes, associations are great, but as you know they mostly exist to deal with policy matters, regulatory issues and in some cases marketing. We felt it important for us to work directly with companies who see consumer education as an extension of their commitment to safety.”
PFSE has a number of initiatives coming up later this year and early next year. In early 2017, the organization will hold a Consumer Food Safety Education Conference, and it will make available an evaluation toolkit on its web site.
Ms. Feist noted in her speech that the PFSE will partner with sponsors Cargill, the Frozen Food Foundation, Coca-Cola, Nestle USA and Publix Super Markets, as well as the public health community, to launch “The Story of Your Dinner” during the 2016 fall holiday season. The campaign will focus on partnering with consumers to promote simple actions everyone may take to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, she said.
“Rather than just coming out to the consumer and saying ‘ok you need to practice safe handling at home,’ we are portraying them in the chain of prevention,” she said. “The chain of prevention extends into the home.”
The campaign is set to launch Nov. 1. in the southeastern portion of the United States, targeting Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The program will include useful at-home tips through the following campaign activities:
• “The Story of Your Dinner” video will explore the “chain of prevention” from farm and processing to retail and the family dinner table.
• “Kid-friendly” activity placemats featuring food safety messages will be distributed in partnership with health and food safety educators.
• Recipe cards for Southern-style side dishes, complete with important food safety steps, will be created in collaboration with participating food bloggers.
• Rewards through participation in a social media consumer sweepstakes for those submitting their best “turkey hand” artistic creations.
• Educational materials designed for easy dissemination through social media and digital communications for use by the public health industry.
Ms. Feist noted that if the pilot campaign is successful PFSE will move to take the campaign national in 2017.