- Author: Chutima Ganthavorn
- Author: Katie Panarella
- Contributor: Shyra Murrey
EFNEP delivered food safety lessons to over 4,000 participants last year, with nearly 2,500 reporting improvements in food safety knowledge and practices. EFNEP's work contributes to UC ANR's public value of safeguarding sufficient, safe, and healthy food for all Californians.
The foodborne illness burden in the U.S. is estimated at 48 million cases, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3000 deaths each year (CDC.gov). This burden will likely increase during the coronavirus pandemic since more families are now cooking and preparing meals at home. With limited consumer knowledge about food safety, the likelihood of foodborne illness increases. Moreover, today's consumers often rely on the internet for health information. Studies have found inaccurate food safety advices on TV cooking shows and recipe blogs. A recent study reveals misinformation abounds on social media and internet question and answer websites.
How UC Delivers
Food safety is one of the four core areas of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). California EFNEP, a statewide program of UC ANR, teaches food safety and safe food handling practices as part of the nine-lesson nutrition series for limited-resource families in 19 counties. Adult participants, mostly those responsible for preparing meals for the family, learn reliable food safety information based on research such as food safety basics, the four core practices to prevent foodborne illness, safe minimum cooking temperature, and proper storage of leftovers. In addition to teaching concepts, EFNEP educators demonstrate proper handwashing and other safe food handling practices during recipe demonstration. Youth participants in lower grades (K-2) learn about when and how to wash hands. EFNEP educators use the Glo-germ demonstration, which illustrates proper handwashing. Youth in upper grades also learn about food safety basics and how to store and handle food safely. During the pandemic, EFNEP quickly pivoted to offer classes virtually so that food safety lessons could continue. During the 2020 program year, EFNEP statewide delivered food safety lessons to 2,981 adult participants and 1,323 youth.
The pre/post EFNEP Adult Questionnaire utilized to evaluate the effectiveness of EFNEP shows 85% (1850 of 2187) of participants improved in one or more food safety practices, such as washing hands before preparing food, washing all items and surfaces after cutting raw meat or seafood, not thawing frozen food at room temperature, and using a meat thermometer. Thawing frozen food at room temperature is not recommended but appears to be common among EFNEP participants; only 29% met this recommendation before the training. After the EFNEP lesson, 65% of participants indicated they now less often thaw frozen food at room temperature. Among youth participants from grades K-12, 55% (733 of 1323) of children and youth gain knowledge or use safe food handling practices more often. Research shows that these food safety practices can reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness. Therefore, these outcomes demonstrate how EFNEP contributes to improved food safety and the public value of safeguarding sufficient, safe, and healthy food for all Californians.