WASHINGTON — More than 25 retailers in 46 states have agreed to participate in an expansion of the Partnership for Food Safety Education's “Be Food Safe” campaign officially launching this week.
Mike Johanns, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other government officials are expected to meet on Capitol Hill this week to celebrate the revamped program, which delivers core food safety messages (“clean, cook, separate and chill”) through a bold graphics program. Retailers participating in the program will bring the Be Food Safe messages to their shoppers through in-store signage, brochures, fliers, packaging, sale circulars and other means, a spokeswoman for the Partnership told SN. The PFSE is a coalition of USDA, FDA and other federal agencies; trade associations, including Food Marketing Institute; and consumer groups.
Originally launched by the USDA last fall, Be Food Safe has been lauded for its effectiveness in delivering a simple, safe food-handling message to consumers. While the overall rate of foodborne illness is decreasing, PFSE said one in four Americans suffer some form of illness each year. Moreover, public concern over food safety is on the rise following recent events such as the pet food and import scares.
“One of the things we looked at before signing on was some of the research that [PFSE] presented, showing that 75% of shoppers think that food-related illness is a serious threat to their health. That really struck us,” Karen Buch, corporate dietitian for Weis Markets, Sunbury, Pa., told SN.
Weis stores intend to use Be Food Safe graphics in store signage, sales fliers and ads, and will incorporate the campaign's message into Weis' Healthy Bites newsletter, Buch said. The Weis Markets website will also link to the PFSE's Fightbac.org website.
“What we liked about the program is that it's being presented to the consumer through four very eye-catching icons that represent the four core steps that consumers need to take to reduce the risk of foodborne illness,” Buch said. “It's also simple enough for consumers to grasp the moment they see it. Shoppers can be bombarded with a lot of information in the supermarket, and these symbols, being simple and easy to identify, are going to help us send the message home.”
Fiesta Mart, Houston, hopes to get the message out through its employees, said Palmer Morgan, director of merchandising for the 50-store Hispanic-focused chain. In addition to store signage, Fiesta has ordered ribbons bearing the Be Food Safe message for employees to pin on their uniforms.
“We're having ribbons for our employees to wear because the last place customers go is the checkstand. If we have all our checkers wearing these ribbons, then we can really create a lot of extra awareness,” Morgan told SN. “It also helps all of our employees buy into the message, not just the ones back in the meat department and grocery operation.”
Twenty-six retailers, representing 5,200 stores, have already agreed to participate in the program, although PFSE officials expect more. Interested retailers are required to execute a licensing agreement.
Participants so far include Acme Markets, Albertsons LLC, Associated Food Stores, Atlantic Food Mart, Big Y Foods, Brown & Cole, Bueh-lers Fresh Foods, Fairview Foods/Piggly Wiggly, Fiesta Mart, Food Lion, Giant Eagle, Hannaford Bros., Highland Park Market, King's Super Markets, Lund Food Holdings, Meijer, Publix Super Markets, Roundy's Supermarkets, Save Mart Supermarkets, Schnuck Markets, Shop-Rite, Stop & Shop, Sweetbay, Soleberg's Market, ShopRite and Weis Markets.