September is National Food Safety Education Month
guest post by Abby Snyder, The Ohio State University
Gastroenteritis, a stomach illness characterized by nausea, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea, results from eating food contaminated with microbial pathogens. Keeping these pathogens out of food requires the involvement of people throughout the food industry. Farmers and growers prevent the introduction of pathogens into the food supply through the use of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). Food manufacturers process foods using techniques like pasteurization to kill contaminants. And consumers must handle and prepare foods in a way that doesn’t lead to contamination, pathogen growth, or pathogen survival. The folks at foodsafety.gov generally categorize these behaviors into four categories: cook, chill, separate, and clean.
Every September since 1994, science educators recognize Food Safety Month as an opportunity to provide training and instruction on the causes of foodborne illness and appropriate mitigation strategies. This is a unique opportunity for teachers in the area of biological sciences, agricultural education, and health sciences to collaborate and introduce new content. For biological science educators, food safety issues deal with growth and pathogenesis of microorganisms. Allergens, in contrast, are a teaching example in immunology. For agricultural educators, food safety underpins a large regulatory framework for employees and entrepreneurs in the agriculture and food sector. Outbreaks of foodborne illness impact everything from consumer perception to brand value, liability, and insurance. For health science educators, food safety represents a major tenant of public health. Current estimates indicate that 1 in 6 people in the U.S. contract a foodborne illness each year, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Where can content around these issues be found for integration into the classroom? Real world examples and anecdotes, like those described above, are readily integrated. Education focused programs like GrowNextGen and the Partnership for Food Safety Education publish materials and lessons. For more information or to discuss in-person visits, reach out to your county extension educator.