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Food Safety Campaign Aims to Mix Laughs with Lessons

September 26, 2017

Social media posts portray food pathogens as eligible yet undesirable dates

Humor is the key ingredient of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s new food safety social media campaign. Dating profiles for norovirus, salmonella and other pathogens use laughs to promote how people can protect themselves and ‘block’ foodborne illness.

TACOMA, Wash.—Would you hook up with foodborne illness? Online dating profiles portray food pathogens as eligible singles who want to spread their sickness to unwitting dates. People learn why the pathogens are undesirable and how to protect themselves. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department developed the campaign for National Food Safety Month, which is every September.

“We’re using humor and cultural relevance to raise the profile of foodborne illnesses, especially among younger people,” said Katie Lott, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Food and Community Safety program manager. “Everyone is at risk, but we can take simple steps to protect ourselves and stop illnesses from spreading,” Lott said.

With record levels of social media engagement such as shares, comments, tags, and likes, the low-cost campaign is getting people to talk about the usually dry topic of food safety. To date on Facebook, the campaign has reached more than 30,000 people, which is about the population of University Place. By comparison, another Food Safety Month campaign the Health Department ran last year had a reach of about 3,700. That’s about 10 times fewer people.

Block your GermDate

In the food safety social media campaign, the food pathogens introduce themselves through their fictional GermDate profiles. People get to know how the pathogens can make them sick through their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and more. To prevent illness, the posts direct people to a link to a Health Department webpage—www.tpchd.org/practicesafefood—with information about what everyone can do to avoid—or block—each pathogen.

It’s not all about bad players, though. The Health Department will unveil the good guys who represent positive food safety practices later in the campaign. The Safety Singles portray handwashing, temperature control and preparing food when well to reinforce how everyone can prevent foodborne illness.

To see the National Food Safety Month posts, follow the Health Department and search #practicesafefood or #GermDate on:

Foodborne illness in Pierce County

Hundreds of Pierce County residents get sick from foodborne illnesses every year. The top five viruses and bacteria in the county and their common sources are:

  • Campylobacter jejuni—Raw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water.
  • Clostridium perfringens—Beef, poultry, gravies, and other foods cooked in large quantities and not kept above 135°F or below 40°F.
  • E. coli—Contaminated food, especially undercooked ground beef, raw milk and juice, soft cheeses made from raw milk, and raw fruits and vegetables (such as sprouts).
  • Norovirus—Produce, shellfish, ready-to-eat foods touched by infected food workers (salads, sandwiches, ice, etc.), or any other foods contaminated with vomit or feces from an infected person.
  • Salmonella—Contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables (alfalfa sprouts, melons), spices, and nuts.

Food safety 101

When preparing food at home or at work in food service, you can follow four steps to keep people safe and healthy:

  • Clean—Wash hands and clean surfaces often.
  • Separate—Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs; keep these foods separate in grocery bags and refrigerators.
  • Cook—Use a meat thermometer to ensure food heated to high enough temperature to kill bacteria (e.g., beef burger at 160°F, chicken breast at 165°F, fish at 145°F).
  • Chill—Refrigerate food promptly.

If you are sick, you should not prepare food for your family. If you are a food worker and you get sick, stay home until you are well.

Learn more about food safety at www.tpchd.org/food.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.

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