For one example, a project at UGA evaluates current environmental monitoring practices being implemented across the frozen food industry to prevent and control Lm. “We’ve learned there is a need for facilities to review their sampling strategy, including the frequency and timing of sampling,” Dr. Garren relates. “A take-home message of the project is that facilities should focus on sampling for Lm at times and in places where they are most likely to find the pathogen, in order to get a more realistic assessment.”
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All of the peer-reviewed publications resulting from the AFFI-funded research will be added to the Food Safety Zone, Dr. Garren notes. She shares that, since its launch, AFFI’s Food Safety Zone has resulted in some 30,480 page views, with more than 5,000 best practices resources downloaded.
Food Safety Partnerships
A recent AFFI collaboration with Mérieux NutriSciences has led to development of Lm Trend Tracker. “This program is designed to gather industry microbiological sampling data, which can be used to evaluate the implementation of our best food safety practices, develop new resources, and determine if AFFI’s recommendations should be modified or improved,” Dr. Garren explains.
A second partnership was developed with Intertek Alchemy to develop a Listeria-specific 12-month food safety training course that is tailor-made for frontline workers in frozen food manufacturing facilities and the broader food industry. “This program, called Listeria Stops Here, includes a variety of interactive content that keeps workers engaged for better retention, results, and risk reduction,” Dr. Garren elaborates, adding that AFFI ships a toolkit of training materials to participating companies.
The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA), a nonprofit trade association representing all segments of the frozen and refrigerated foods industry, is the sponsor of March Frozen Food Month, June Dairy Month, Summer Favorites Ice Cream & Novelties promotion, and the Cool Food for Kids educational outreach program. Headquartered in Harrisburg, Pa., the NFRA, founded in 1945, includes more than 400 member companies.
“Through our Easy Home Meals consumer-facing website and social media platforms, NFRA talks to thousands of consumers every day about frozen and refrigerated foods,” says Julie Henderson, the organization’s vice president of communications. “We share food safety tips on our Easy Home Meals website and blog, including storage temperature and time charts, and also tips on proper refrigerator and freezer cleaning to help ensure the quality and safety of the foods stored there.”
NFRA recently began collaborating with the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE). “We’re looking forward to sharing resources and helping to get more food safety messages out to our large consumer audiences,” Henderson says. “Our goal is to begin implementing PFSE’s Safe Recipe Style Guide, which has all recipe directions begin with the basic food safety “measure of washing your hands with soap and water and includes instructions for keeping foods separated.”
To instruct students, NFRA has partnered with Young Minds Inspired, a provider of free educational outreach programs, to create downloadable activities for middle and high school consumer science and health teachers that address both food waste and food safety. “Curriculum materials relative to these topics have been emailed to more than 65,000 teachers throughout the U.S. since 2019,” Henderson relates.
Promoting Frozen Food Quality
Relative to food quality, NFRA is consistently telling the farm-to-table story of frozen foods, Henderson emphasizes: that it’s real food, just frozen. “We emphasize to consumers and educators that frozen foods are made from real ingredients picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen, sometimes right on the field, to lock in all the beneficial nutrients and keep them in their perfect, just-picked state,” Henderson elaborates.
With its “Real Food. Frozen” consumer public relations campaign, NFRA focuses on changing the current conversation and perceptions about what people can find in the frozen aisles. “The campaign promotes the real ingredients, culturally-inspired recipes, fresh flavors, and smart packaging that make our category of foods unique,” Henderson says.