RD’s Discuss Consumer Wellness Issues – including Food Safety

Last week our organization traveled to Chicago for a number of reasons.  Not only was the annual United Fresh Produce Association convention being held there this week, but the LGMA had an opportunity to address a group of retail dietitians who were also meeting just across town.  The conference was the second event of its kind organized by Progressive Grocer and was designed specifically for the increasing numbers of dietitians who are now working on behalf of retail grocery stores to provide additional services to their shopping customers.

These dietitians play an important role in communicating with consumers and answering questions about health and wellness issues.  The topics discussed as part of the symposium were numerous and ranged from the benefits of various vegetable oils, to new consumer opinion research, to improved diets for the elderly.  The LGMA was on hand, of course, to speak about foodborne illness.

Marilyn Dolan, public relations consultant for the LGMA and other organizations, provided the group with a joint presentation on the LGMA and the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, which began a food safety program very similar to the LGMA last year.  The primary objective of the presentation was to make RDs aware of the many resources available to them when they receive questions about the safety of leafy greens and/or cantaloupes.  The group was responsive and reported they do indeed receive many questions on this topic. They confirmed that consumer concern is generated when high-profile food safety events, such as the Jensen Farms listeria outbreak, hit the media. While people know they should eat these healthy fruits and vegetables, they can be confused when they hear these products can make them sick.

Dolan provided the group with a brief overview of the two food safety programs which: operate under oversight from the California Department of Food and Agriculture; utilize government auditors to verify science-based food safety practices are followed on farming operations; and require 100 percent compliance with all food safety checkpoints in their rigorous audits.  She also outlined information available to consumers on a number of social media channels about how to safely handle these foods home.

To emphasize the importance of a combined effort by retailers, farmers and consumers when it comes to preventing foodborne illness, Dolan introduced Cameron Turner to the group.  Cameron is a Board member of STOP Foodborne Illness, an organization representing people who have been impacted by foodborne illness, also based in Chicago. Cameron emphasized to this retail audience that they have a very important role in making sure the foods they provide to consumers are as safe as possible. STOP Foodborne Illness is funded by donations, to learn more about this organization and their fundraising efforts visit:   http://www.stopfoodborneillness.org/stop-spring-appeal

Cameron Turner, foodborne illness victim

Cameron Turner, victim of foodborne illness

As Dolan pointed out and all of us who are part of the LGMA know, food safety is an integral part of farming leafy greens today and it is in the culture of our industry.  We believe it’s important for consumers understand this too.  We, therefore, want to arm retailers with the tools they need to accurately communicate this information as they work to convey to shoppers the importance of eating fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.

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