Food safety is a concern to stakeholders in all sectors of the food system, from producers to retailers, restaurants workers, and consumers. Effective food safety practices are essential for the health of the general public, as well as the economic well-being and growth of Massachusetts food businesses. Yet there is a lack of food safety education programs and resources to adequately inform stakeholders, especially consumers, about relevant food safety information and practices.
A leading food safety concern is the general and widespread confusion about the meaning of product shelf life labels (e.g., “use before” and “best by” dates). This affects consumers, retail food workers, distributors, food banks, pantries, and meals programs. Similar uncertainty exists about the shelf life of frozen foods, as well as the definition of “perishable.”
Recommendation 6.1: Improve the availability of, and outreach for, consumer food safety information.
Action 6.1.1: Provide support to the Massachusetts Partnership for Food Safety Education to improve consumer food safety education programs. Focus on product labeling, freshness dating, and related information.
Action 6.1.2: Create a program of public education and point-of-sale signage about safe handling of food during and after purchase.
Recommendation 6.2: Improve the availability of, and outreach for, food safety training, technical assistance, and information for food system workers.
Action 6.2.1: Educate retail food sellers, restaurant workers and managers, farmers market operators, and others in food distribution about food donations that can be made to food banks, pantries, and meal programs without liability. Focus on product labeling, freshness dating, and related information.
Action 6.2.2: Make available, at MDAR’s Division of Agricultural Markets, technical expertise to deploy cold-chain packaging and grading training to increase the quality and availability of specialty crops through wholesale and retail channels.
Action 6.2.3: Include consumer food safety and label reading as part of high school health or nutrition curricula.
Action 6.2.4: Expand the capacity of the UMass Extension Nutrition Education Program and the Massachusetts Partnership for Food Safety Education to address food safety issues.