Preventing foodborne illness and ensuring a safer food supply

The Issue
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million foodborne illness cases occur in the United States every year. At least 128,000 Americans are hospitalized, and 3,000 die after eating contaminated food. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension food safety education programs train participants to prevent incidents of foodborne illness associated with unsafe food handling practices. Results are reduced medical expenses, fewer food recalls, and fewer temporary or permanent closures of food businesses by local health departments.
MSU Extension Action
In 2016, MSU Extension reached over 7,500 people through food safety programming. After attending our food safety classes, participants use safer food handling, preparation, storage and preservation techniques. As a result, consumers can have increased confidence when they receive food from a properly trained professional, whether it is from a food retailer, restaurant, farmers market or an organization serving a community meal.
The Impact
In the Food Preservation workshop, participants significantly increase their knowledge of safe food handling and canning techniques. Participants report that as a result of the program:
  • 99 percent follow research-based recipes for home food preservation.
  • 99 percent use correct processing methods to safely preserve low- and high-acid foods.

The Put It Up series teaches youth participants six food preservation methods: boiling water canning, jam making, pickling, freezing, drying and pressure canning. MSU Extension recently adopted the program, and so far participants have reported that as a result of the program:

  • 76 percent increased their knowledge about food pathogens and how to prevent or slow their growth.
  • 97 percent would use science-based recipes when preserving food in the future.

ServSafe is a national certification program offered by MSU Extension for people who work in food service. 80 percent of participants passed the ServSafe exam with an average passing score of 81 percent.

Cooking for Crowds is designed for nonprofit organizations that prepare food for the public. Program evaluation results estimate that within 3 months after the class, a typical participant reaches an average of 428 individuals with served food. Participants report that after taking the course:

  • 79 percent can properly identify controlling times and temperatures.
  • 77 percent understand the cause of foodborne pathogens.
  • 89 percent know the correct methods of cleaning and sanitizing food preparation surfaces.

MSU Extension’s Cottage Food Law programs help participants become certified to prepare food products in home kitchens and launch their businesses. Participants in the Cottage Food Law ‒ The Basics program report that after taking the course:

  • 70 percent gained new knowledge in cleaning and sanitizing practices.
  • 53 percent gained new knowledge in preventing crosscontamination.

Participants in the single-meeting Cottage Food Law ‒ Business educational program report that after taking the course.

  • 67 percent gained new knowledge in cleaning and sanitizing practices.
  • 57 percent now regularly check temperatures to ensure safe food storage.

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