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USDA, HHS and Ad Council Join Food Network Star Finalist Martie Duncan to Help Families Protect Themselves from Foodborne Illness this Thanksgiving

“Food Safe Families” public service campaign dispels cooking myths and offers tips to help consumers safely prepare and serve Thanksgiving meals

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NEW YORK, NY, Nov. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — More than 46 million turkeys will be cooked this Thanksgiving holiday, according to the National Turkey Federation. In an effort to help protect Americans from foodborne illness during the Thanksgiving season, the Ad Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with Food Network Star’s Martie Duncan, are helping to dispel many of the common myths surrounding the preparation and serving of the holiday turkey meal.

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is a serious public health threat in the U.S. The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Serious illness can result from several commonly-held time-saving practices pertaining to the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal, such as: stuffing the turkey the night before; thawing the bird on the counter; and assuming that a turkey is done by appearance rather than by using a thermometer. These actions can endanger families by promoting the growth of harmful bacteria.

For information and tips on preparing the Thanksgiving meal safely, consumers are encouraged to visit FoodSafety.gov or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline, open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Families can also access “Ask Karen,” an online database of answers to specific questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses available 24/7.

“Thanksgiving is all about family, food and traditions, but some common cooking practices, like using the color of turkey and juices to indicate doneness, can lead to foodborne illness,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. “Making sure consumers know the best ways to protect themselves and their families from food poisoning is an essential part of our jobs, and we encourage everyone to take advantage of our food safety resources at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.”

TV personality and home entertaining expert Martie Duncan joins the Food Safe Families campaign to offer meal preparation tips and demonstrate safe food practices. Ms. Duncan was a finalist on Season 8 of Food Network Star. She produces a featured web series on MyRecipes.com and writes about food, recipes and entertaining for her own website, www.MartieKnowsParties.com.

“The last thing anybody wants at a holiday gathering is to serve unsafe food, but sometimes we may not realize that’s what we’re doing,” said Martie Duncan. “Being aware of USDA recommendations for serving temperatures will help ensure safe and happy holidays.”

“Protecting Americans from foodborne illness during the holiday season and all year round is always a high priority for the FDA,” said Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. “Consumers have a role to play too, especially when it comes to safe food–handling practices in the home.”

Created pro bono by ad agency JWT New York, the Food Safe Families campaign aims to raise awareness about the risks of foodborne illness and educate consumers, especially parents, to take specific actions to reduce their personal risk through the following safe food-handling behaviors:

“Thanksgiving is a time to be especially careful as many are preparing a meal they do not cook on a regular basis and for larger numbers of people,” said Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “Consumer education is critical to the prevention of foodborne illness and our targeted outreach aims to motivate Americans to both learn and practice key steps which will keep their families safe.”

The campaign includes English and Spanish-language television, radio, print, and Web advertising, as well as English-language outdoor PSAs and an integrated social media program. All campaign elements direct audiences to visit FoodSafety.gov, where they can learn about food safety practices, or to call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Consumers can also access “Ask Karen,” which includes answers to nearly 1,500 questions in both English and Spanish, related to preventing foodborne illnesses.

USDA
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (www.fsis.usda.gov) is the public health regulatory agency within USDA responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. To accomplish this, FSIS employs approximately 7,600 inspection personnel who enforce the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act. The agency also provides outreach programs like the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline and Ask Karen, the virtual food safety representative, to educate consumers about the importance of safe food handling and how to reduce the risks associated with foodborne illness.

FDA
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products. The agency also is responsible for the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices.

CDC
CDC works 24/7 saving lives, protecting people from health threats, and saving money  to have a more secure nation. Whether these threats are chronic or acute, manmade or natural, human error or deliberate attack, global or domestic, CDC is the U.S. health protection agency.

The Ad Council
The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization with a rich history of marshaling volunteer talent from the advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. Having produced literally thousands of public service advertising campaigns addressing the most pressing social issues of the day, the Ad Council has affected, and continues to affect, tremendous positive change by raising awareness, inspiring action and saving lives. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit www.adcouncil.org, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or view our PSAs on YouTube.

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Media Contacts:

USDA, Kathy Bernard, +1-301-344-4746, kathy.bernard@fsis.usda.gov
FDA, Shelly Burgess, +1-301-796-4651, Shelly.Burgess@fda.hhs.gov
CDC, Candice Hoffmann, +1-404-639-7689
The Ad Council, Ellyn Fisher, +1-212-984-1964, efisher@adcouncil.org