Food safety for social media influencers

Be a food safety influencer! Include food safety in your social media posts that include recipes or cooking demonstrations.

Two women looking at a smartphone over a table full of different dishes.
Photo: Pexels/Sam Lion.

Blog posts, videos or podcasts are popular ways to show cooking and baking skills, with the potential to be viewed by thousands of people. Many people watch or read these to find inspiration, share creativity and learn new cooking techniques. Popular social media content authors, or influencers, can be role models for the online community since followers use the content as an example of "what to do." As a social media influencer, including food safety practices into recipes is a great way to build credibility and minimize foodborne illness.

MSU Extension recommends that social media influencers include food safety steps in their online recipes. The 4 Steps to Food Safety are clean, separate, cook and chill:

  • Clean: Wash hands and clean all food contact surfaces and equipment before preparing food.
  • Separate: Make a point to include separating raw meats from ready to eat foods while preparing recipes.
  • Cook: Place reminders within the recipe instructions to wash hands and food contact surfaces before handling food. Use the recommended minimum safe internal temperatures for the type of food.
  • Chill: Provide instruction that hot foods need to be chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit within two hours.

Social media content created by influencers should also be evaluated for food safety. For example, a post about "dry canning" in the oven may be popular, but food safety experts warn against the use of dry canning. Manufactures advise that glass canning jars are tempered for moist heat methods, such as hot-water bath canning, and storage of dry ingredients like rice or pasta. Using glass jars in the oven may cause appliance damage and even personal injury. It is also not recommended to bake small servings of a dessert, such as cake, in a glass jar or terra cotta pot. Most jars and pots are not designed to be used for baking and cannot withstand the dry heat of the oven leading to risk of shattering or exploding. Terra cotta pots are known to have lead and that can leach into food.

Another cooking technique made popular by social media influencers is making ready-to-eat cookie dough. While these recipes may not use raw egg or pasteurized egg product, they might still use raw flour, which is a salmonella/E. coli risk. Raw flour is not processed in a way where it is heated or where foodborne pathogens are removed, so it has been the culprit of many recent foodborne illness outbreaks. Since 2009, 168 documented illnesses have been linked to raw flour, with 20 reported hospitalizations.

During holidays, another popular tip shared online is to store extra food on the porch or in the garage if you run out of fridge or freezer space. Even though it may feel cold outside, sunshine may put the food in the temperature danger zone and wildlife or pets may contaminate the food. Plan ahead to have coolers and enough ice that can be changed every eight hours.

In addition to safe cold storage, frozen foods need to be thawed and cooked properly to avoid bacterial growth. Some recipes recommend cooking raw and ready to eat ingredients together in a slow cooker. If the raw food is frozen, it will not pass through the temperature danger zone quick enough to prevent bacterial growth. Make sure to thaw raw foods prior to adding them to your slow cooker. If you are short on time, MSU Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture have recommended resources for thawing and cooking frozen foods safely.

There are several templates available for adding food safety to any recipe or cooking method found on social media. The Safe Recipe Style Guide from The Partnership for Food Safety Education is one resource to create recipes that include food safety steps as well as adding food safety steps to existing recipes. Other recipes that include food safety can be found on the Food Safety in Your Kitchen page from the Food and Drug Administration website; these recipes also include food safety steps. By including instructions for the safe handling of food in recipes and in live and video demonstrations, you can decrease foodborne illnesses in vulnerable populations. Vulnerable populations include children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems that might be more sensitive to foodborne illnesses, which may lead to a serious illness or death.

Plan food demonstrations and recipes by including food safety practices before posting online. Contact MSU Extension with questions or to help with a food safety and recipe strategy. 

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