June 28, 2011

US Government Issues Safe Food Preparation Tips

The U.S. government has issued a new campaign to raise awareness of safe food handling in the wake of a European E. coli outbreak that has taken almost 50 lives.

The campaign hopes to remind chefs at home to clean off surfaces and utensils, wash hands, separate raw meats from other foods and cook meat to the right temperature, among other safety precautions.

The ad blitz is spearheaded by the Ad council, which is behind other famous government ad campaigns like "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" and Smokey the Bear's efforts to try and end forest fires caused by human error.

"This is just a good reminder to make sure that in the rush of trying to get the meal on the table you don't forget one of these rules and put yourself at additional risk," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) said that 48 million people are sickened every year by a foodborne illness.  The last several years have seen high-profile outbreaks in peanuts, eggs and produce.

The USDA is launching the campaign this year to get the message out as people plan their July 4th cookouts. 

Elisabeth Hagen, head of food safety at USDA, said consumers ignore the temperature of meat too often.

"The most important thing you can do is buy yourself a meat thermometer and use it," Hagen said in a statement.

Government officials said they hope the ads will be as successful as previous federal advertising efforts, like those aimed at increasing seat belt use or curbing drunk driving.

"We knew we had to break through the clutter and really grab attention and make people understand this is something that can happen to you and your family," Heidi Arthur of the Ad Council said in a statement. "People don't necessarily see themselves at risk because they think they are doing enough."


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