Newswise — The information-heavy food safety website maintained by Iowa State University ( ) continues to grow each year with new features added to meet consumer and industry needs. The site, which is supported partly by the Food Safety Consortium funding, recorded more than 3 million page views last year and over 9 million hits. "I think we have continued with our primary objective, which is to try to reach consumers as well as those working in the food service industry," said Catherine Strohbehn, an ISU hotel, restaurant and institution management extension specialist who supervises the site. "We're trying to develop synergies with other existing work." Among the new additions to the site is a food allergens section including information for consumers eating away from home and retail food services. The links include a PDF version of an extension brochure detailing what restaurant managers need to know to train their staffs for handling situations related to food allergies. The section also contains guidelines developed by other agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, for managing food allergies in schools, and how to accommodate children with food allergies during visits to restaurants. More material is in development based on information gathered from a survey of National Association of College and University Food Services member institutions about food allergen policies and procedures at the college level. Using gloves in food industry jobs is highlighted in a Flash graphic on the site. The module is targeted to line-level food handlers and is a companion to an extension publication targeted to managers. An in-service guide is featured. This work was jointly created with support from a current USDA funded project in progress at ISU with Strohbehn and Susan Arendt as principal investigators."We're trying to help site managers because we know many of the managers know the information, but getting that to their line-level employees is difficult because of turnover or whatever reasons," Strohbehn said. "This is a guide for how to do a quick training session." Additional copies of the glove publications were printed with a small grant from the Iowa Food Safety Task Force and are delivered to retail food services by health inspectors in Iowa when they conduct site visits. "We're trying a different delivery mechanism because there's a lot of confusion about glove use," Strohbehn explained. "The inspectors are trying to change their image to be a coach and an educator, not just the inspector." Another page in the site emphasizes best practices to ensure safety of fresh produce. Extension faculty in hotel, restaurant and institutional management worked with Food Safety Consortium personnel and state regulatory agencies to develop presentations about good agricultural practices and publications on safe handling of fresh produce targeted to producers, consumers and food service operators. "What we're finding is that many small farmers go to the farmers' markets or they're selling local products to restaurants and retail food services," Strohbehn said. "What's of concern is that many of those smaller producers don't understand the fundamentals about food safety - like having a hand-washing station available, especially for produce items that won't receive any further heat treatment." Other frequently visited pages in the site include the food safety news section, SafeFood Lessons and the Spanish translation of the Guide to Food Safety for Retail Operations. With support from other grant funding, some of the existing materials on the site will also be translated into Spanish. The website serves practical needs for consumers and needs frequent updating to respond to contemporary trends. "Over half of meals served are now prepared away from home. Many consumers don't know how to cook any more, and when they do so, often have many questions about proper handling and temperatures," Strohbehn said.

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