By: Ashley Eisenbeiser, MS, CFS, Senior Director, Food and Product Safety Programs, FMI

2021 CFSEC graphicIt is hard to believe that almost a year ago we were beginning to see the first cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.  I do not think anyone could have predicted how much of an impact COVID-19 would have on us, as individuals, on communities and on the entire food industry.  We knew so little about the virus then, and while we know more today, there still seems to be many unknowns. The truth is, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed us, particularly when it comes to gathering around the table for a family meal.  It has uprooted our normal and has shifted:

Where we eat and who we eat with.  Americans are eating more meals at home and they are enjoying more meals at home with their families.

What food we eat. With more meals at home, more consumers report trying new dishes more often, according to Home Cooking in America 2020a special report based on FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2020. 

How we shop.  Consumers are putting more emphasis on minimizing shopping trips while relying more on online ordering of food or groceries for delivery or for pickup at the store.

Despite changing consumer behaviors, the need for safe food has remained constant. Americans are cooking at home more now than ever, and even though COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness, this pandemic has highlighted the importance of consumer food safety education messaging: clean, separate, cook, chill.  It is critical that consumers know how to safely prepare foods in their home to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

The food industry has invested tremendous resources in food safety over the past decades and consumers expect safe food. According to FMI’s 2020 US Grocery Shopper Trends Reportnine out of 10 shoppers have confidence in the safety of the food at the grocery store.  Additionally, consumers believe that food safety is a collective responsibility and they too play an important role in keeping food safe.  FMI supports the food industry in helping consumers safely prepare food at home through the support of the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE).  

As the pandemic continues, educating the public on safe food handling, preparation and storage has a new urgency.  That is why I encourage you to make plans to attend the 2021 Consumer Food Safety Education Virtual Conferenceon March 9-12, the only conference in the U.S. dedicated to consumer food safety education. Hosted by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, this event will bring together health and food safety educators from government agencies, non-profit organizations, higher education, and the food industry who all share the common goal of improving food safety behaviors.  This year’s conference will explore many timely topics, including COVID-19 and food safety, family meals, safe recipe development, handwashing, behavior change and more!

For more information about the conference, including program details, and to register, visit www.fightbac.org/virtual

Register for the Consumer Food Safety Education Conference, March 9-12, 2021