"Education is the most effective tool we have to combat food poisoning" according to Kelly Johnston, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs and Communications of the National Food Processors Association (NFPA). His comments came in response to a report issued today by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, examining foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States during the past decade.
"The real key to reducing illness is food safety education" Johnston stated. "The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's own data indicate that food obtained from an unsafe source is the least commonly reported factor in food poisoning outbreaks. Most food poisonings were in fact attributable to unsafe food handling and preparation practices"

Johnston noted that "Government, the food industry, and consumers all play an important role in keeping foods safe. Consumers can best protect themselves from food poisoning through proper preparation and handling of foods." He added that "This report refers to 'unsuspecting consumers.' All stakeholders in food safety - including government, consumer organizations, and the food industry - need to do more to provide basic food safety education for consumers."

The recently revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes, for the first time, a guideline on food safety, Johnston said. "NFPA strongly urged the inclusion of a food safety guideline, because we believe that it is unwise to address the topic of nutrition without noting the importance of food safety in a healthful diet."

Johnston stressed that "The United States has one of the world's safest food supplies, but more can be done. In addition to consumer education, we believe that better information gathering will help government to target food safety activities toward those areas where they will have the greatest impact. And we wholeheartedly agree with CSPI that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a more appropriate source for information on food-poisoning outbreaks than CSPI."