WASHINGTON (PRNewswire-USNewswire) — Millions of Americans are expected to fire up the grills this summer — a time when incidents of foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, tend to surge. In preparation for barbeque season, the Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, in partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are launching a new online tool that automatically inserts critical food safety steps into user recipes. The tool is an extension of the national Food Safe Families campaign, the first joint multimedia effort created to raise awareness about the risks of food poisoning and motivate consumers, particularly parents, to take specific actions to reduce their risk and keep their families healthy.
Foodborne illness is a serious public threat in the United States. The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Because warm weather events often present opportunities for bacteria to thrive and multiply more rapidly, the summer months typically see a spike in reports of foodborne illness and outbreaks.
Furthermore, FDA research has found that a majority of Americans don't know how to properly check if a burger is safe to eat. In addition, more than 1.8 million pounds of ground beef believed to be contaminated with E. coli was recalled by the USDA in May, making it more important than ever for consumers to take the necessary steps to protect their families from foodborne illness.
The new Food Safe Families recipe tool  on FoodSafety.gov allows users to insert their favorite recipes into a simple online field that instantly adds relevant food safety steps to the appropriate ingredients or actions. Users can also import recipes directly from popular online recipe sites, including Allrecipes.com, Foodnetwork.com, and Food.com among others.
"My love for food grew out of watching my mom cook. All of the first dishes I learned to make, I learned from my mother," said chef Martie Duncan of Food Network Star Season 8 and MartieKnowsParties.com . "So many of us learn how to cook from our families. That's why I support the Food Safe Families campaign in encouraging families to practice safe food handling behaviors in their kitchens. It's important to have resources like the online recipe tool making it easier for families to stay healthy."
"With so many people planning to picnic and barbeque during hot summer weather this summer, it's never been more important to empower them with food safety resources," said Maria Malagon, Director, Food Safety Education at USDA. "Consumer education is critical to the prevention of foodborne illness and our targeted outreach aims to motivate Americans to both learn and practice key steps which will keep their families safe."
The Food Safe Families campaign aims to raise awareness about the risk of foodborne illness and encourage families to both learn and practice key steps that will help keep everyone safe from foodborne illness through the following safe food handling behaviors:
- Clean: Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling raw food. Clean all surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water. Wash all produce under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking.
- Separate: Use separate plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs and foods that are ready to eat (like already cooked foods or raw vegetables).
- Cook: Cook foods to the safe temperature by using a food thermometer.
- Chill: Chill foods promptly if not consuming immediately after cooking. Don't leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours, or 1 hour if temperature is above 90 degrees F.
The campaign also includes English and Spanish-language TV, radio, print, and Web advertising, as well as an integrated digital and social media program. All campaign elements direct audiences to visit FoodSafety.gov , where they can learn about food safety practices. Consumers can also access "Ask Karen ," an online database with answers to nearly 1,500 questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses in both English and Spanish.
Launched in June of 2011, Food Safe Families is the first joint national multimedia public service campaign designed to help families prevent food poisoning in the home. Since launch, the campaign has received more than $83 million in donated media and campaign website, FoodSafety.gov has educated over more than 15 million visitors. Per the Ad Council model, the PSAs are distributed to media outlets nationwide and run in air time and space donated by the media.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (www.fsis.usda.gov ) is the public health regulatory agency in USDA responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. To accomplish this, FSIS employs approximately 7,600 inspection personnel who enforce the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act. During Fiscal Year 2010, FSIS inspection personnel ensured public health requirements were met by inspecting 147 million head of livestock, nine billion poultry carcasses, and 2.6 billion pounds of processed egg products.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
Foodborne illness is a serious public threat in the U.S. The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 Americans suffer from foodborne illness each year. Now, a new online tool created by the USDA automatically inserts critical food safety steps into user recipes.