Any time is a great time to refresh your food safety skills, but the back-to-school season is an ideal occasion to do so. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention promotes September as National Food Safety Education Month (NFSEM) and offers plenty of resources and information related to foodborne illness and food safety. NFSEM encourages operators to share food safety practices and tips with employees, while also educating the general public about the importance of food safety protocols, including the proper storing and handling of food at home.
Since 1996, September has been recognized as National Food Safety Education Month®. The goals of NFSEM are:
- To reinforce food safety education and training among restaurant and food-service workers;
- To educate the public to handle and prepare food properly at home, where food safety is equally important; and
- To build awareness of the restaurant and food service industry’s commitment to serving safe food.
Focus on Food Safety
Each year, National Food Safety Education Month focuses on the importance of food safety education for the food service industry, while raising awareness of the industry’s commitment to food safety. It also emphasizes the importance of recognizing that establishments serve some customers who are at higher risk for becoming ill from improper food storage, handling or preparation. These customers may be infants and preschool-age children, whose immune systems are still developing, as well as older adults and people with illnesses, who have immune systems that have been compromised. Unsafe food can cause serious problems for these customers, and can make them very ill. It may not be possible to determine a high-risk customer at first glance, making it even more critical to put the highest standards of food safety into practice every day.
Steps to Prevention
In addition, consumers need to know simple steps they can take to prevent foodborne illness. Though most consumers have a good foundation of food safety knowledge, there are problem areas, complacency, and food safety gaps that still exist. Government research shows that this gap results in increased risk of foodborne illness. Food safety education and awareness are vital components in helping to combat this public health issue.
Each year, establishments such as restaurants, hospitality associations, colleges, government agencies and consumer organizations across the country participate in NFSEM in a variety of ways. This includes online activities, food safety classes, games to get customers involved, displays, contests, and media campaigns. Find more information at the following websites: www.cdc.gov/foodsafety, www.foodsafety.gov, fightback.org or http://www.fsis.usda.gov.
Wyoming Food Safety Coalition
The Wyoming Food Safety Coalition (WFSC) is dedicated to preventing food borne illness. This collaborative program is sponsored by the University of Wyoming Extension, Wyoming Beef Council, Department of Agriculture (WDA), Department of Health, Wyoming City/County Health Departments, and Lodging and Restaurant Association. For information about food safety or the WFSC, check out their website at wyomingfoodsafety.org.
Written by Karla Case, University of Wyoming Extension Educator