This September marks the 15th annual observance of National Food Safety Month.  Created by the food industry in 1995, the month is intended to renew focus on safety precautions within the food industry and within American homes.

For the National Restaurant Foundation, this year’s theme is”High-Risk Customers: Serve Your Fare with Extra Care.”  The Foundation, which was established in 1919,  is focusing this year on identifying at-risk customers and learning how to properly protect them.

Traditionally, this month has been a time for those in the food industry to participate in workshops and tutorials designed to renew safety practices. Politicians and other public figures often see September as a chance to highlight what steps they’ve taken  to combat foodborne illness. Last week Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm proclaimed September as  Food Safety Education Month in her state. Her office outlined the precautions the Michigan Department of Agriculture is takingto protect consumers.

“By working collectively with our local partners, we continue to work hard to maintain food safety standards and protect Michigan consumers from deadly foodborne illnesses,” said Don Koivisto, Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) director.   “National Food Safety Education month is an opportunity to remind everyone to take a proactive role in keeping our food secure since food safety is a team effort.  Simple things like hand washing, cooking to a proper internal temperature, and separating foods significantly reduce the risk of foodborne illness to you and your family.”

The Michigan MDA oversees the safety of feed and food products in its state through a sampling and inspection program that regulates  more than 1,200 manufacturers.  Michigan  has launched an initiative, called the Consumer Information Text or Email Food Recall Alert Service, which provides updates on recalls and other food issues.  You can subscribe to the service here.

Last year, Food Safety News interviewed the executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a prominent group in Food Safety Month education efforts.  She said she sees a sharp increase in downloads of the group’s free safety educational materials each September.Many groups offer free tutorials and other food-safety resources  aimed at reaching both consumers and educators–everyone from food industry professionals to elementary school students.

Information on Food Safety Education Month, developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation can be found here.  

Since its inception, National Food Safety Month has helped food safety professionals and consumers compare the current strength of food safety initiatives with previous years. Consumer advocacy groups and food safety professionals say they hope that with each Food Safety Month observance  the food on tables and in supermarkets is  safer than ever before.