With the arrival of autumn comes preparations for one of America’s most beloved holidays, Thanksgiving. Because it is so widely celebrated, however, Thanksgiving presents a huge set of food safety problems. While exploding deep-fried turkeys held the attention of the news cycle for a while, the risk of turkey combustion is nothing compared to the risk inherent in not taking precautions when dealing with raw poultry—and many other foods enjoyed over the holidays. For that reason, the Arlington, Va.–based non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) is launching a consumer food-safety program this fall entitled The Story of Your Dinner to educate Americans about how to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner that the whole family can enjoy—safely, without risk of foodborne illness.
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“For years we have seen increased interest in home food safety around the Thanksgiving holiday,” says Shelley Feist, executive director, PFSE. “So this seemed a natural time to present The Story of Your Dinner and to provide fun new formats for consumer food safety information.”
Building on a longstanding partnership with Publix, the PFSE has also partnered with Cargill, Nestlé, and the Frozen Food Foundation in presenting The Story of Your Dinner as a pilot project in the southeast U.S. this fall, with plans to expand it nationwide in 2017. In order to grab the attention of the public, the campaign will be designed to be interactive and attractive to consumers of all ages. They hope that social media users will share content such as the upcoming “Story of Your Dinner” animated video, but they’re also preparing a collection of holiday recipes from southeast bloggers that will have food safety steps included as part of the preparation instructions. In addition to relying on the PFSE’s network of 13,000 health- and food-safety educators to publicize the campaign, the PFSE will also be running a sweepstakes and releasing kid-friendly activity placemats.
“I think consumers will respond well to thinking about food safety as a commitment of many people,” Feist says, “and of home safe food handling as a critical part of the chain of prevention. We want consumers to keep top-of-mind during the holidays the important practices of Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. These ‘Core Four’ practices are the basis of reducing risk of foodborne illness at home.”
This message is underlined by partner organizations, like Coca-Cola and Cargill. Pete Stoddart, media relations director at Cargill, hails the clarity of the “Core Four” message and notes that it goes far beyond the holidays into helping consumers develop food safety habits that will keep their kitchens and families safe from foodborne illness long into the future.
“We see this a great way to inform and remind consumers about simple steps they can easily take as they prepare their family meals,” Stoddart says. “The messages of the campaign are shared in an easy-to-understand manner that we think will resonate with consumers across the country.”
For many Americans, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holiday meals will include a variety of frozen foods, from the turkey main course down to the individual fixings—and thawing and cooking frozen foods presents consumers with a variety of challenges. For that reason, participation by the Frozen Food Foundation was important, says Adrienne M. Seiling, the Foundation’s executive director.
“Given the variety of frozen foods, each package contains validated cooking instructions,” says Seiling. “Through the Story of Your Dinner Campaign, the Frozen Food Foundation will remind consumers to always read and follow the package cooking instructions to achieve a temperature necessary to ensure a safe and wholesome food.”