WASHINGTON, D.C. -- New research reveals consumers are not aware of the prevalence of foodborne illness, potentially putting themselves at greater risk for contracting such an illness.

To help educate consumers nationwide about how to reduce their risk, the Partnership for Food Safety Education has joined forces with the USDA to launch Be Food Safe, a new initiative to reach consumers with safe food handling messages.

"Our research shows that three in four (77 percent) adults surveyed say they know how to handle food to reduce their risk of foodborne illness, yet most do not know that each year they have a one in four chance of contracting a foodborne illness," says Shelley Feist, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education.

"Half of adults surveyed say they are not sure what their risk is, and another 42% underestimate their risk," she said. "We are concerned that if adults do not fully understand how common foodborne illness is, they will not be vigilant about handling foods properly to safeguard their health and that of their families."

The nationally representative study, ConsumerStyles, was conducted among more than 13,000 adults by Porter Novelli earlier this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur annually in the United States. These illnesses result in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths each year.

To help reduce the incidence of foodborne illness the Partnership for Food Safety Education is collaborating with the USDA on a new food safety education campaign: Be Food Safe. The campaign was developed using the four core messages proven to reduce risk of foodborne illness: clean, separate, cook and chill.

The collaborative effort advances key prevention tips building on the key messages to help empower consumers to reduce risk of foodborne illness:

  • Clean: Wash hands, utensils and cutting boards before and after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.

  • Separate: Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood apart from foods that won't be cooked.

  • Cook: Use a food thermometer - you can't tell food is cooked safely by how it looks.

  • Chill: Chill leftovers and takeout foods within two hours and keep the fridge at 40 degrees F or below. Use an appliance thermometer.

  • "Our research shows that education is critical toward helping consumers understand how to safely handle foods," said Feist. "This campaign represents a fresh new way to speak to consumers to help keep themselves and families safe from foodborne illness."

    Be Food Safe education materials, along with the popular Fight BAC!(R) food safety education materials are available at www.fightbac.org.

    The Partnership for Food Safety Education unites industry associations, professional societies in food science, nutrition and health, consumer groups and the United States Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, to educate the public about safe food handling and preparation.

    The Partnership, a non-profit organization, is the creator and steward of the Fight BAC!(R) campaign, a food safety education program developed using scientifically based recommendations and resulting from an extensive consumer research process. Fight BAC!(R) materials are fully accessible online and are used by consumers, teachers, dietitians, public health officials and extension agents across the United States.

    Porter Novelli's annual Styles surveys are conducted via one of the nation's largest consumer panels -- Synovate's Consumer Opinion Panel. Synovate's panel is a national household database consisting of 450,000 households. The resulting Styles databases are post-stratified and weighted according to U.S. Census benchmarks on age, sex, race/ethnicity, income and household size to reduce potential bias due to underresponse or overresponse in categories within these demographic variables. Porter Novelli has been collecting this data for more than a decade, tracking consumers' attitudes and behaviors related to food, health and nutrition.

    SOURCE: Partnership for Food Safety Education via PR Newswire.