Arizona's Statewide Food Safety Program

Enhance Economic Opportunities for Agricultural Producers
Research Year: 
2004
Issue: 

Foodborne illness and related deaths continue to occur in Arizona. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported more than 2307 cases in 2002. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that only 10 percent of all cases are even reported. The 2000 FDA report on food safety stated that between 6.5 and 8.1 million cases of foodborne illness and as many as 5000 related deaths occur each year in the United States. Experts believe that the risk of foodborne illness is increasing due to changes in the food supply system; an increase in group feeding; an increase in the number of people at greatest risk of foodborne illness- elderly, children and people with suppressed immune systems; changes in pathogens and new resistant strains; and new modes of transmission of pathogens. An interdisciplinary, research-based approach to education is needed on the issues affecting the safety and quality of the food supply from the farm to the table.

Description of Action: 

Safe Food 2010 is a multi-year project focusing on education in food safety with the general public, school food service staffs, group home staffs, food banks and other community groups. The ultimate goal is to reduce foodborne illness in Arizona and to increase safe food handling practices, from the field to the consumer's plate. The program uses a broad array of both written information and workshops delivered in several counties in Arizona.

Workshops include Master Consumer Adviser volunteer training, food safety education classes, EFNEP (Extension Food and Nutrition Education Program) classes, Safe Food Handling for the Occasional Quantity Cook, and a biennial Food Safety from the Farm to the Table Conference. Information services include 800-number food safety hotlines, weekly news columns on food safety in a Phoenix area newspaper, and Safe Food Weeks, when food safety information packets are delivered to print and broadcast media for dissemination to the public.

Impact: 

More than 2000 low income families annually have attended EFNEP classes in Arizona. Of these, 93 percent have made positive changes in their food behaviors, and 52 percent improved safe food practices, according to follow-up surveys. Safe food practices result in reduced medical costs and fewer lost work days. Similar results occurred with school and institutional food service staffs. In a six-month follow-up survey with participants, 95 percent reported improvement in at least one safe food practice due to the training, with a 30 percent increase in safe food practices. These changes affected more than 200,000 children or at-risk adults. As the program spreads, the total potential number of elementary students affected by food lunch practices in Arizona would be more than 562,000 children. Food service personnel are constantly changing, so ongoing education is critical. Extension volunteers and staff have trained more than 300 community quantity cooks in safety practices. Master Consumer Advisors in Phoenix and Tucson answered 5,000 consumer questions over the phone in 2003. Reported cases of foodborne illness in Arizona declined from 5200 in 1995 to 2307 in 2002, even with much better reporting.

Safe Food 2010 conference participants reported sharing the information with 5400 additional people. Conference feedback: survey data from previous Safe Food Conferences showed that 84 percent had used the Safe Food conference information and materials at work or home; 84 percent said the conference helped them update their current job skills; 46 percent shared information with people they taught or trained.

Funding Agencies: 

University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Staff time: Maricopa, La Paz and Yavapai County Department of Environmental Health, Arizona Department of Health Services Arizona Department of Agriculture USDA-CSREES, Industry supporters Staff time: Food banks, restaurant industry, Intertribal Council, NW Food Processors Association, Intertribal Council, local grocery representatives, Arizona Beef Council, Arizona Gleaning, parish ministry and social service organizations

Conact Name: 
Sharon Hoelscher-Day
Contact E-mail: