Press Release

USDA and HHS Join Ad Council to Help Families Protect Themselves from Food Poisoning this Fourth of July

Summer weather causes spike in food poisoning; Walmart to feature ‘Food Safe Families’ PSA on checkout screens at approximately 600 stores nationwide

WASHINGTON, DC, June 27, 2012 — In preparation for July 4th and the summer months when instances of food poisoning increase, 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 continuing their national Food Safe Families public service campaign, the first multimedia effort designed to raise awareness of the risks of foodborne illness (or food poisoning) in the home. New outdoor PSAs, placed on billboards, bus shelters, and other outdoor locations across the nation, are being distributed to media outlets nationwide and the “Chill” TV spot will air on Walmart’s Checkout TV Network in 600 stores nationwide.

U.S. beef sales are highest during the week of July 4th with Americans purchasing $400 million in beef, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. However, newFDA research, in collaboration with USDA, has found that a majority of Americans don’t know how to properly check if a burger is safe to eat. The only way to determine if meat has reached a safe internal temperature is by using a food thermometer but research indicates that less than 1 in 4 Americans (23% of the U.S. population) who own a food thermometer report using it to check the internal temperature of burgers when cooking.

Foodborne illness is a serious public health threat in the United States. The CDCestimates 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 warmer temperatures cause bacteria to multiply, the summer months typically see a spike in reports of foodborne illness.

“Consumers have high expectations for the safety of the food supply,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, “and we, the government, have an obligation to make sure that food is safe. But despite the best efforts of government and industry, the system isn’t perfect. Consumers face some risk, and part of our job is to make them aware of it and how to minimize it. That’s been the basis of our year-long partnership with the Ad Council to promote food safety. Making sure hands, utensils, and surfaces are clean, that you’re cooking food thoroughly, storing it at a safe temperature, and avoiding cross-contamination are simple, meaningful steps that people can take to keep themselves and their families from getting sick.”

Created pro bono by ad agency JWT New York, the Food Safe Families campaign aims to raise awareness about the risks of foodborne illness and educate consumers, especially parents, to take specific actions to reduce their personal risk through the following safe food handling behaviors:

  • Clean: Clean kitchen surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water while preparing food.
  • Separate: Separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards.
  • Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer.
  • Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly.

“We are working around the clock, every day to safeguard our nation’s food supply,” saidHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “And we know that summer is a time of heightened risk for foodborne illnesses, so the Fourth of July is a good time to make sure consumers have the tools they need to protect themselves and their families. The Ad Council campaign offers simple, effective steps families can take to reduce the risks of foodborne illnesses as they celebrate Independence Day and enjoy the summer months ahead.”

“The power of this campaign is its ability to break through the media clutter and draw people’s attention to a serious public health issue,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “Part of our job is not only to raise awareness of foodborne illness, but to make sure people are aware of ways to keep themselves safe. For example, a food thermometer is the only way to make sure food is cooked to the proper temperature. Color isn’t an indicator of doneness, yet more than half of Americans don’t use a food thermometer when they cook. That needs to change, and one way we’re trying to accomplish that is through educational efforts like the Food Safe Familiescampaign.”

In an effort to help families protect themselves during July 4th and throughout the summer months, Walmart is supporting the Food Safe Families campaign by donating airtime on its Checkout TV Network. The “Chill” TV spot, which teaches consumers the importance of chilling raw and prepared foods promptly, will air on checkout TV screens at approximately 600 Walmart stores throughout the country from June 25 through July 31, 2012, reaching more than 16 million customers.

“We’re proud to join with HHS and USDA to continue our efforts to promote safe food handling practices, and are thrilled to have the support from Walmart at this crucial time of year,” says Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “Consumer education is critical to the prevention of foodborne illness and our targeted outreach and PSAs endeavor to motivate Americans to both learn and practice key steps which will keep their families safe.”

The campaign includes English and Spanish-language television, radio, print, and Web advertising, as well as an integrated 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 1,300 questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses. In time for July 4th, “Ask Karen” will be available in Spanish.

USDA
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, FSISemploys 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. FSIS also conducted eight million food safety and food defense procedures to verify that the systems at all Federal establishments met food safety and wholesomeness requirements.

FDA
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.

CDC
CDC works 24/7 saving lives, protecting people from health threats, and saving money to have a more secure nation. Whether these threats are chronic or acute, manmade or natural, human error or deliberate attack, global or domestic, CDC is the U.S. health protection agency.

The Ad Council
The Ad Council (www.adcouncil.org) is a private, non-profit organization with a rich history of marshalling volunteer talent from the advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. Having produced literally thousands of PSAcampaigns addressing the most pressing social issues of the day, the Ad Council has affected, and continues to affect, tremendous positive change by raising awareness, inspiring action and saving lives.

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Media Contacts:
USDA, Carol Blake, 202-720-9113, Carol.blake@fsis.usda.gov
FDA, Shelly Burgess, 301-796-4651, Shelly.Burgess@fda.hhs.gov 
CDC, Christine Pearson, 404-639-3286, boy3@cdc.gov 
The Ad Council, Ellyn Fisher, 212-984-1964, efisher@adcouncil.org

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