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ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Partnership for Food Safety Education has unveiled a national food safety education campaign focusing on the safe handling of fresh fruits and vegetables. The recommendations build on the partnership's successful Fight BAC! campaign. Consumer-tested messages will reach the public through the media, the partnership's national network of public and private partners, grass-roots food safety advocates, and the fightbac.org Web site.
"The promotion of this initiative starts today," said Cathy Means, v.p. of government affairs for PMA, who spoke yesterday morning at a workshop on produce safety at the association's convention. The group held a press conference introducing the program to press later in the day, and began to disseminate brochures outlining its six main messages on how consumers should safely handle fresh produce. At the workshop, she also urged industry players to use the program's tools -- posters, fliers, graphics, and powerpoint presentations -- to get the message out.
The supporting produce handling-education materials were developed as part of a collaborative effort by the partnership's full membership, which includes several produce industry organizations as well as other government, industry, and consumer member-organizations. Dissemination of the Web-based safe produce-handling materials is being supported, in part, through a gift to the Partnership from the PMA.
The partnership's long-standing Fight BAC! initiative uses the consumer-tested, science-based message "cook, clean, chill, and separate" to promote safe food handling. High levels of consumer awareness of this core message shows that Fight BAC! has made great strides in educating consumers about these important food safety recommendations.
As part of the new produce education program, additional recommendations have been added that highlight the need to "check" produce (for bruising, damage, and refrigeration if fresh-cut) and to "throw away" fresh fruits and vegetables under certain conditions that may render them unsafe. All messages were tested with consumers to ensure they are clear and understanadable.
The Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for regulating the produce industry, supports this effort. "FDA is pleased that the Partnership for Food Safety Education is getting information out to consumers about produce safety," said Lester M. Crawford, acting FDA commissioner, in a statement. "Raising and maintaining consumer awareness about how to handle fresh produce safely is an important step in the overall goal of reducing foodborne illness."
According to Tim Hammonds, chairman of the Partnership for Food Safety Education and president and c.e.o. of the Food Marketing Institute, continuing education is imperative.
"The partnership's newly released consumer quantitative research findings show that in most cases, the greater consumers' message awareness, the greater the likelihood that they follow the safe handling recommendations," said Hammonds. "The survey suggested awareness of some produce-specific recommendations would be increased if consumers were provided more concise messages. We will leverage the partnership's Fight BAC! campaign and the vast network of partnership members and BAC! Fighters to help get the word out."
"Increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is crucial to a healthy diet. That's why it is so important for the Produce Marketing Association to support the partnership and better educate consumers with the information they need to reduce their risk of foodborne illness," noted Bryan Silbermann, partnership board member and president of PMA. "While the partnership's research reveals that great progress has been made, more work needs to be done. Through the Fight BAC! campaign, PMA joins other industry, government, and consumer groups to educate consumers about safe produce handling."