The Netherlands Nutrition Centre launched a new food safety campaign in November with a little typographic help from bacteria. For their five educational posters posted across the country, the Centre grew bacteria into the shape of words. Microbial samples from the dishcloths, vegetables and cutting boards of ordinary Dutch kitchens were cultured and photographed for the project. Foodborne illnesses affect about 700,000 Dutch each year, and the goal of the campaign, entitled “Ziekmakers zie je niet” (“You can’t see what makes you ill”), was to help make invisible bacteria visible to consumers. Translated into English, the five steps for safely preparing food at home featured on the posters were:

  1. Buy refrigerated products that last.
  2. Wash your dishcloth every day.
  3. Cut meat on a separate cutting board.
  4. Stir food you heat in the microwave.
  5. Set your refrigerator at 4 degrees C (about 39 degrees F).

More than 2,000 posters appeared across the country in outdoor spaces such as bus shelters for the first week of the campaign, followed by 500 in the second week. The campaign also ran online banners showing time-lapses of the bacterial growth, overtook the homepage of Dutch news website, and created a video about the making of the posters.

The first four steps for safe food preparation.