Last [month] I joined food safety educators and experts from around the globe in Atlanta for the 2010 Food Safety Education Conference.  My time at the conference flew by, but due to the incredible amount accomplished and learned there, it is hard to believe I was there only a week.  While it is difficult to whittle my newfound wisdom down to a few “key takeaways,” I decided to pick my three favorite pieces of knowledge from the conference for those of you unable to attend.

1. Food Safety is a priority for President Obama and his administration

Secretary Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) emphasized during his video speech on Wednesday that President Obama  and his administration are committed to food safety.  This was echoed and emphasized by many representatives from government agencies at the conference, including Jerold Mande, Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety, USDA and Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods, FDA.   The Obama administration has created a Food Safety Working Group that is tasked with improving our food safety systems and ensuring safe food that does not cause us harm.   The time is ripe for food safety education, and the conference was filled with enthusiastic food safety educators.

2. Social Media may be potentially revolutionary for food safety communications.

The theme for the conference was Advancements in Food Safety Education: Trends, Tools and Technologies, so it only made sense that there would be a large focus on the evolving technology of communications and social media.  Throughout the conference, government agencies, as well as those from the private sector, highlighted their success at communicating food safety through channels such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, podcasts, YouTube, and even handheld devices.  When used appropriately, social media allows food safety educators to effectively reach large audiences with minimal resources.  As the International Food Information Council Foundation is getting more and more involved in social media (fan us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter), I feel even more equipped to make a difference and capitalize on these tools to communicate about food and health.

3. Partnerships are crucial to further food safety education.

In the current economic environment, many people are dealing with decreased budgets and cutbacks.  It is even more important that we capitalize on partnerships to streamline resources and be effective.  The Partnership for Food Safety Education, which includes government agencies, academic institutions, trade associations, and scientific societies, is an excellent example of people joining forces to work toward a common goal–food safety education.  By working together, we can expand our reach and amplify our messages, thus being more effective.  Friendships made at the conference will likely foster increased communication among food safety educators and potentially could turn into partnerships and collaborations down the road.

For those of you who are interested in some of the highlights from the 2010 Food Safety Education Conference, I would encourage you view these videos provided by the USDA:

Secretary Vilsack’s Address to the Conference

Highlights from Day One

Highlights from Day Two

I would also encourage you to view the Twitter stream, as many took the lessons on social media to heart and “tweeted” during the conference. #FSEC2010

Now that I’m back in Washington, DC, I must say that my interest in food safety has been re-energized.  I was inspired by many of the people I met and presentations I attended.  There is so much good work going on around food safety education, and I am pleased and honored that the Foundation is a part of the fold.  Jerold Mande, the Acting Under Secretary of the USDA, said it best when he praised the high attendance of the conference but warned that success of the conference will been seen by reduced incidence, hospitalization, and death from foodborne illness.  I look forward to seeing all of the positive efforts and outcomes that will come from the conference

What are you doing for the sake of food safety?

An End to the 2010 Food Safety Education Conference, A New Beginning for Food Safety Education, by Katie Burns, was originally published on the IFIC Nutrition Blog.  Republished with Permission.