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May 13, 2004

North Dakota Teens Learn Food Safety

Twenty-nine percent of employed 15-year-olds work in eating and drinking establishments, according to a 2000 report by the U.S. Department of Labor. Considering this statistic and the 76 million Americans sickened annually by food borne illness, North Dakota State University experts have acted to educate youth about the significance of proper food handling.

“Teens Serving Food Safely is a statewide education effort to improve food handling among North Dakota youth,” says Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist. The Extension Service received initial funding in 2000 from a USDA grant for a five-lesson curriculum piloted in three North Dakota cities.

The project provides training and certificates in food safety. “To date, about 600 students have completed the series and passed the exam,” Robinson says. “Average test scores on food safety increased from 59 percent on the pre-test to 96 percent on the post-test. One month later, the average score was 93 percent, indicating good retention.”

On the follow-up survey also given one month after the lessons, results showed more than one-third of students had already applied what they learned while preparing food for the public.

Program educators now consist of over 80 family and consumer science teachers and Extension agents throughout North Dakota.

During the fall of 2003, teachers utilizing the curriculum requested food/refrigerator thermometers to distribute to students. Despite outbreaks linked to undercooked meat, only 5 percent of Americans use a food thermometer, according to Robinson.

Contributions from the North Dakota Beef Commission, North Dakota Nutrition Council, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline and the regional office of the Food and Drug Administration have been used to assemble approximately 2000 kits including thermometers, as well as food temperature magnets and printed materials.

The kits will go to North Dakota youth who participate in the food safety series held in high schools or as workshops offered by the Extension Service in 2004-2005.

The North Dakota Beef Commission’s donation included 1500 thermometers and magnets. “We look for any opportunity to extend food safety as it relates to beef products,” says Nancy Jo Bateman, executive director of the North Dakota Beef Commission. “By helping educate youth, we hope to impact life-long habits,” she says.

Robinson also has high expectations for the program: “It is intended that this North Dakota effort become a national food safety model for youth.”

For more information, contact Robinson at jgardenr@ndsuext.nodak.edu or
(701) 231-7187.

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Sources: Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, jgardenr@ndsuext.nodak.edu
Nancy Jo Bateman, (701) 328-5120, ndbeef@btinet.net
Editor: Teresa Oe, (701) 231-8371, teresa.oe@ndsu.nodak.edu


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