The following article originally in IGA's The Independent View newsletter on September 15, 2017:

By Hilary Thesmar, PhD, RD, CFS, Chief Food & Product Safety Officer and Senior Vice President, Food Safety Programs, Food Marketing Institute
FMI Food Safety Team hanging with E (E. coli), Sal (Salmonella), and Liz (Listeria)

In my dual professional role as a food safety practitioner and a registered dietitian, I happen to have two passions that coalesce in September: our FMI Foundation campaign that encourages households to enjoy one more meal each week together using items from the grocery store, National Family Meals Month™, in addition to September’s annual focus on consumer food safety awareness.

In our recent consumer trends research, FMI U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2017, we found that 95 percent of U.S. shoppers trust the food they purchase from the grocery store is safe, so for me, National Family Meals Month summons all of the ways in which food retailers can nurture shopper trust and help their customers take better control over their own health by employing safe food handling at home. In fact, the Partnership for Food Safety Education has simple resources on how to help consumers take steps to clean, separate, cook and chill when they are in their home kitchens, and for the last 20 years, the organization has tirelessly worked to provide free resources to food retailers.

The Partnership has resources to help guide your in-store communications plans and recommends including food safety instructions in recipes because this action results in better compliance by consumers. Here are a few general guidelines on how your store can offer food safety tips in your featured recipes and family meal solutions in September and beyond:

  1. Build food safety steps into the preparation instructions – and repetition is key to adoption! Include simple techniques such as using separate surfaces and utensils for uncooked/raw ingredients.
  2. Begin with handwashing instructions and repeat as needed, especially if the consumer is handling raw ingredients.
  3. Include end-point cooking temperatures and recommend the use of a thermometer.
Food safety has always been a priority for the supermarket industry, so it’s only natural for food retailers to help educate shoppers as they inspire them to make or assemble their best family meals this September. I know you’ll also find ways to blend your enjoyment of food and culinary exploration with responsible food safety steps. For more resources, visit the Partnership for Food Safety Education and the tools that exist for National Family Meals Month.