— OPINION —
By Mitzi D. Baum, M.Sc., CEO for Stop Foodborne Illness
Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP) was born in 1994, the same year in which September was dedicated as National Food Safety Education month (NFSEM). As we quickly roll into September, I believe it’s important to reflect on the importance of both STOP and NFSEM and their contributions to public health.
STOP was formed (originally as Safe Tables Our Priority) to raise awareness and change the status quo in food safety inspection policies that were not in sync with current science. Consumers were not protected from emerging pathogens and were paying the ultimate price with their lives; four of them were children.
Through tears and pain, the parents of the children that were permanently injured or succumbed to the foodborne illnesses fought for changes in food policy that would impact everyone who eats. The first of these policy changes, in 1994, was the declaration of E. coli O157:H7 as an adulterant in ground beef. By these courageous individuals telling their horrific lived experiences brought on by food poisoning, politicians and regulatory officials made bold moves.
NFSEM is meant to educate consumers – not the food safety industry. Let’s be honest, we regularly preach to ourselves about the fundamentality of our work. NFSEM is designed to move beyond the small world of food safety professionals to engage the community at large. This is an opportunity for all food safety professionals – that work to reduce the risk of foodborne illness – to bring attention to the amazing unrecognized work performed every day in food manufacturing, retail, and food service establishments.
There is a reason that U.S. consumers assume the foods they purchase and consume are safe – it’s because of YOU. And as a community of individuals, food producers and growers, companies, regulatory agencies, and consumer advocacy groups that are focused on food safety and risk reduction, this is our collective opportunity to engage beyond those of us that are ‘in the know’.
It’s essential that the food safety community engage in the educational component of our work to the outside world. Stop Foodborne Illness sees the need for the industry to coalesce around this issue in a way that is simple, accessible, and educational while raising awareness of food safety. STOP3000 is a 30-day challenge for everyone to walk 3,000 steps each day in September to commemorate the estimated 3,000 lives lost annually in the U.S. due to food poisoning. Consider this, since 1994 over 87,000 individuals have died because of something they ate.
We, at STOP, urge you to take the challenge, sign up, raise awareness, share food safety tidbits, and support our work by participating in our third annual STOP3000. STOP operates solely on donations – we can’t do our work without the support of the food safety community. We are grateful to our sponsors this year: Chick-fil-A, Conagra Brands, Saldesia – Goddess of Food Safety, Image Base, Kelleher Consultants, LLC, and ASI Food Safety.
STOP is “The Voice for Safe Food”. This September, help us expand our voice to improve food safety and reduce the incidence of foodborne disease.
Check us out at: https://stopfoodborneillness.org/stop3000-2023/
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