This page provides
a text alternative for an article in the Winter/Spring
2007 issue (PDF Only, 5.4MB).
Food Safety Conference Focuses on Those Most "AT-RISK"
By Matthew D. Baun
The 2006 Food Safety
Education Conference in Denver this past fall proved to be a
gathering post for ideas, strategies and information on improving
the level of food safety in the United States. Titled Reaching
At-Risk Audiences and Today's Other Food Safety Challenges,
the conference sparked an ongoing dialogue among the more than 600
food safety and health professionals in attendance.
The primary mission of the conference was having attendees explore
the various ways of reaching those most "at risk" for
foodborne illness with critical food safety messages. The "at-risk"
demographic is a sizable one. Nearly one in five Americans fall
into this category and it includes young children, older adults,
pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system — people
with diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS and transplant recipients.
"We have a common goal with the public health and medical communities
to save lives, and food safety is definitely an integral part of
that," said Bryce Quick, Deputy Administrator of USDA's Food
Safety and Inspection Service and a speaker at the conference. "It
was exciting to see how public health professionals, the medical
community, the food industry, food safety educators and consumers
came together at this conference."
The behind-the-scenes efforts provided attendees access to a comprehensive
program of more than 80 exhibits and posters, more than 30 breakout
sessions and numerous keynote speeches by top USDA and public health
officials in the United States.
Attendees left these sessions with a better understanding of how
to reach "at-risk" audiences while receiving the latest
information on behavioral and attitudinal research, effective social
marketing strategies and innovative approaches to reaching the "at-risk"
and underserved populations. Attendees also learned about successful
programs being used to train and educate caregivers such as foodservice
workers, and even those who prepare meals in their own homes.
Conference attendees also received a strong dose of encouragement
from leading USDA and public health officials who described their
valuable contributions to improving public health while suggesting
areas where public health and food safety issues can be improved.
Adm. John O. Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., Assistant Secretary
for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
referred to conference attendees, many of whom came from state and
local health agencies, as his "army" in the national fight
against public health threats, including foodborne illness.
A pediatrician, Agwunobi is the nation's highest ranking public
health officer. He encouraged conference attendees to network and
communicate with each other so their ideas and successes would be
known to other public health professionals.
Agwunobi also issued a challenge to the conference attendees by
asking them to take the message to under-served populations in the
"We still don't reach into racial and ethnic communities the
way we do the majority," said Agwunobi. "There are still
gaps in taking that high step of food safety into these underserved
communities around the nation."
Attendees also heard from another national figure on the public
health scene, Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., Executive Director of the
American Public Health Association.
Benjamin said public health officials should take pride in the work
they do even though they never get to see the faces of the people
they help through their work and dedication. Benjamin encouraged
conference attendees to become better communicators in order to
more effectively engage the public on critical health issues. He
encouraged public health professionals to seek out opportunities
in order to raise awareness.
"Too often in the public health community we talk to ourselves,
listen to ourselves, and answer our own questions," said Benjamin.
"We fail to engage critical stakeholders like the general public,
policy makers, and the business community. It is time to change
for the sake of the people we serve."
For More Information About the Conference, including Photos
[Top of Page]