Consumers with food safety questions often don’t know where to turn for reliable answers. Now, thanks to a partnership between The Kroger Co. and the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), consumers are being encouraged to contact Ohio State University Extension’s Food Safety Hotline at 800-752-2751 (toll-free in Ohio), available between 9 a.m.and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or e-mail [email protected].
The hotline has been operated since 1985 by Ohio State’s Food Industries Center. Now, a grant from CIFT, with support from Kroger, has allowed the university to hire a team of students to respond to consumer questions. The students are supported by personnel from Ohio State’s Food Industries Center and faculty experts from the Department of Food Science and Technology, Department of Human Nutrition, and OSU Extension. After hours, consumers can leave a message and phone number to get a response.
Questions that are e-mailed will automatically go to the students answering hotline questions as well as a group of faculty members studying different aspects of food safety from the Department of Food Science and Technology, the Department of Human Nutrition, the Food Industries Center, and Ohio State University Extension.
Ken Lee, director of Ohio State’s Center for Food Safety and Security, is glad the hotline is gaining a higher profile.
“Our Ohio State food safety hotline has been in continuous operation for more than two decades,” Lee said. “Public contact was mostly by word of mouth, but now we have the marketing capabilities of a major food retailer to help educate consumers.”
The new funding from Kroger is part of the company’s Food Safety Awareness Campaign. Kroger also offers food safety messages and brochures in its stores, which includes a chart for safe cooking temperatures for meats and other foods.
“The hotline is a great opportunity for consumers to quickly gain the information they seek about food safety,” said Bruce Macaulay, president of Kroger’s Columbus Division. “We feel it’s important to emphasize how to safely handle and prepare food — especially fresh meat — during the summer grilling and picnicking season when consumers may prepare and serve foods outdoors.”
Website now available, too
Ohioans now can get the food safety information they need thanks to a new Ohio State University food safety website.
The website, http://foodsafety.osu.edu, offers consumers, health professionals and people who are at high risk of food-borne illness easy-to-understand, “plain talk” information that they can incorporate easily in their day-to-day life, said Lydia Medeiros, food safety specialist with Ohio State University Extension and one of the leaders in developing the site.
The site contains numerous photos to illustrate food safety concepts for consumers in the “Ask Mom” area of the site, including how to properly wash hands, test meat with a food thermometer, and prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen. The area for health professionals, “Ask the Doc,” provides food safety fact sheets that can be downloaded and shared with patients or clients who have been diagnosed with cancer or HIV/AIDS, who have had an organ transplant, who are pregnant or who have chronic conditions that make them more vulnerable to food-borne disease. In the “Ask the Teacher” portion of the site, educators have access to a PowerPoint presentation they can download to teach food safety concepts.