Preventing foodborne illness and ensuring a safer food supply


May 7, 2018

The Issue

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million foodborne illness cases occur in the United States every year. At least 128,000 Americans are hospitalized and 3,000 die after eating contaminated food. MSU Extension food safety education programs train participants to prevent incidents of foodborne illness associated with unsafe food-handling practices. Results are reduced medical expenses, fewer food recalls, and fewer temporary or permanent closures of food businesses by local health departments.

MSU Extension Action

In 2017, MSU Extension reached over 5,300 people through food safety programming. After attending food safety classes, participants use safer food-handling, preparation, storage and preservation techniques. As a result, consumers can have increased confidence when they receive food from a properly trained professional, whether it is from a food retailer, restaurant, farmers market or an organization serving a community meal.

The Impact (2017)

In the Food Preservation workshop, participants significantly increase their knowledge of safe food-handling and canning techniques. Participants report that as a result of the program:

  • 95 percent learned the importance of following research-based recipes for home food preservation.
  • 93 percent were confident in their ability to safely preserve food at home.

Cooking for Crowds is designed for nonprofit organizations that prepare food for the public. Program evaluation results estimate that within 3 months after the class, a typical participant reaches an average of 199 individuals with served food. Participants report that after taking the course:

  • 84 percent can properly identify controlling times and temperatures.
  • 84 percent understand the cause of foodborne pathogens.
  • 71 percent know the correct methods of cleaning and sanitizing food preparation surfaces.

ServSafe is a national certification program offered by MSU Extension for people who work in food service.

  • 83 percent of participants passed the ServSafe exam with an average passing score of 82 percent.

MSU Extension’s Cottage Food Law programs help participants become certified to prepare food products in home kitchens and to launch their businesses. Participants in the Cottage Food Law: The Basics program report that after taking the course:

  • 43 percent gained new knowledge in cleaning and sanitizing practices.
  • 31 percent gained new knowledge in preventing cross-contamination.

Participants in the single-meeting Cottage Food Law: Business educational program report that after taking the course.

  • 90 percent were able to legally produce and sell their favorite food item under the Cottage Food Law.
  • 58 percent said that the session met their needs and another 38% said that the program more than met their educational needs. Overall, there was an 96 percent satisfaction rate for the program fully meeting expectations.

Impact of online courses

MSU Extension also offers three online food safety and food preservation courses: Cottage Food Law, Home Food Preservation and Food Safety for Food Service Workers. This allows greater participation from people who can’t attend traditional, face-to-face classes.

  • In 2017, over 1,600 people were reached with online food safety courses.

How Michigan Benefits

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. economy more than $15.6 billion a year. Your support of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension food safety programs helps prevent foodborne illnesses and ensures a safer food supply for consumers, whether they’re buying from food retailers or enjoying meals at restaurants or community gatherings. This benefits everyone by decreasing the economic costs of foodborne illnesses

In 2017, the state’s $61.9 million investment in MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension generated more than $1 billion for Michigan residents. Every dollar the state invested in MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension resulted in an additional $2.50 leveraged in federal funds and external contracts, grants and other revenues, as well as $6.22 in additional community benefits. As a result, MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch are able to serve Michigan residents with a benefit/cost ratio of 18:1.


Tags: health impacts

Related Topic Areas

Food & Health, Safe Food & Water

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