I'm a bit of a food safety zealot, poking cooked meats with thermometers and whisking leftovers into the refrigerator. But it's hard to keep food fresh and safe when you eat outdoors. On the second day of a camping trip last summer, for example, my daughter held up a bun and said "Mommy, why is my hot dog bun blue?" Horrified, I tossed the bun right away, along with a bag of its azure-tinged companions.
One in six Americans will get food poisoning this year, which causes about 3,000 deaths annually and, not surprisingly, spikes in the summer months. The CDC argues that forces such as the centralization of food production and increased consumption of food produced outside the United States make it increasingly difficult to prevent these outbreaks. Currently, Salmonella bacteria are infecting alfalfa and spicy sprouts in the northwestern U.S. and New Jersey, and a strain of E.coli bacteria in vegetables has killed almost 50 people in Germany and other parts of Europe.
It's scary stuff. But even without food contamination that originates in a farm or a factory, Americans do a pretty good job of giving themselves food poisoning on their own. To prevent food poisoning caused by lax food preparation habits at home, the USDA, FDA, CDC, and the Ad Council just launched a consumer ad campaign. Their clever, friendly campaign encourages everyone to keep food preparation areas clean, separate raw meat from other ingredients, cook food to the right temperature, and chill uneaten food adequately.
To remind us all to be careful with food this summer, here's a sample of the ads: