According to an analysis by the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE), academia, public health agencies and schools are the most active sources of food safety education in the U.S.
PFSE commissioned North Carolina State University to conduct the survey to identify the organizations most involved with food safety education, the audiences they serve, and the channels they use most frequently to communicate safe food handling messages.
The organization released the results of its “environmental scan” at the 2014 Consumer Food Safety Education Conference on Thursday, Dec. 4.
“We were looking to identify as many of the robust sources of consumer education and outreach programming as we could in the United States because it’s very important to how the Partnership does its job and how we plan for the future,” said Shelley Feist, PFSE executive director.
The survey found that academia (including cooperative extension) is the biggest source for consumer educators, followed by public health services, Family and Consumer Sciences teachers and people involved with school food service, the federal government, and non-profit organizations.
One highlight of the research was that most food safety education is done in person. According to the survey, 90 percent of the people who consider themselves food safety educators use face-to-face meetings and presentations.
The next most popular channel was the web, which is used by 36 percent of educators — mostly in the federal government.
Other channels include television, print media, phones and poster displays.
While cooperative extension represents the majority of educators who come in contact with consumers, the survey found that the government reaches the most people on an annual basis (through programs such as Food Safe Families, Cook it Safe and Fight BAC!).
Across the three most active groups, children and families with children are the primary targets for education — important since half of all foodborne illness hospitalizations are children.
One disappointing finding was that half of educators reported that they were not monitoring their organizations’ impact or don’t know whether they are.
“This is an area we all intend to work together on improving,” Feist said.
PFSE plans to host a webinar in February to dig deeper into the data and discuss how to allocate resources in the future.