Serve Your Fare with Extra Care: A Food Safety Webinar

By: Mary Rooks and Angela Boadu   Date: 9/30/10

Earlier this week, the International Food Information Council Foundation hosted a food safety webinar with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and Dr. David Goldman, Assistant Administrator, Office of Public Health Service, USDA. The theme for the webinar was "Serve Your Fare with Extra Care", which is also the theme this year for National Food Safety Education Month. Nearly 500 people registered to participate in this event which included health professionals, educators and other subscribers to the Food Insight Newsletter.

Foundation Food Safety Research

The webinar highlighted results of the Foundation's 2010 Food & Health Survey and reflected on health professional research.  Tony Flood, Director, Food Safety and Defense for the Foundation shared highlights from the food safety section of the Food & Health Survey. One of the major points Tony made in his presentation addressed the need for health professionals to be engaged in food safety education and promotion. Although most Americans get their food safety information from the media, government and health professionals tend to be the most trusted sources. Recommendations from a physician were found to be the main source that prompted food safety handling changes in Americans. Tony further pointed out that food safety practices are declining which indicates that there is room and further opportunities for trusted health professionals to help educate the public about food safety. Health professionals need and desire food safety education tools to use with clients and patients.

Foodborne Illness Risks

According to Dr. David Goldman, who cited the CDC, there are approximately 76 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. each year. While most incidents of foodborne illness resolve themselves, approximately 2-3% of those cases result in chronic illness. Chronic diseases such as rheumatologic disease, renal disease, neurologic and neuromuscular disorders, heart and vascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease and nutritional and other malabsorptive disorders can result from foodborne illness.  Some examples include:

- Salmonella causes can cause arthritis by invading the joints and causing inflammation which can lead to Rheumatologic Disease.
-  Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome can be caused by E. coli O157:H7 which can lead to acute renal failure and other renal diseases.
- Several foodborne pathogens can cause neurologic and neuromuscular disorders.
- Campylobacter jejuni can cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome which can lead to paralysis and death.
- In addition, Taxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite, Taxoplasma gondii which is found in contaminated meat and can lead to visual impairment and mental retardation.
- Heart and vascular diseases can be caused by E. coli and Salmonella Typhimurium. Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis have been attributed to Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli, and Streptococcus spp. 

Dr. Goldman, who is a practicing physician, made "The Case for Engagement" that the health care community needs to work together to be involved in educating clients and patients about food safety, as many cases of foodborne illness can be prevented by safe food handling techniques.

Finding More Food Safety Information

The Food Safety Education Staff of FSIS finished up with a review of their updated and revised high-risk population brochures which include populations who have cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, transplant patients and older adults. Other at-risks populations may include pregnant women, young children and those with compromised immune systems. For more information about the exciting resources that FSIS has to offer, including the Food Safety Discovery Zone Mobile, "Ask Karen", the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, please visit www.fsis.usda.gov

The USDA is looking to partner with professional associations to develop resources for medical professionals so they can become engaged in food safety education and preventive care. There is a need for different-minded organizations to collaborate in an effort to encourage food safety in all populations. For more information on partnering opportunities with the medical community, please contact FSIS' Food Safety Education Staff at (301) 344-4755 or at fsis.outreach@usda.gov