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Source: Doug Powell, 785-317-0560, dpowell@k-state.edu
http://www.k-state.edu/media/mediaguide/bios/powellbio.html
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415, khodges2@k-state.edu

Friday, Jan. 16, 2009

K-STATE RESEARCHERS SAY FOOD-SAFETY BLOGS ARE KEY WAY TO REACH NEW GENERATION OF FOOD HANDLERS

MANHATTAN -- The growing presence of blogs make the new form of media a key way to inform consumers about safe food practices and to reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses, according to a Kansas State University food scientist.

K-State's Doug Powell, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, is a co-author of the article "New Media for Communicating Food Safety" in the January issue of Food Technology, which is published by the Institute of Food Technologists.

In the article, Powell and the other researchers describe how methods of informing consumers must evolve to fit a new generation of food handlers.

Blogs have become a common form of communication, and this is especially true for people born between 1977 and 1997 who grew up using the Internet, according to Powell. In addition, after the produce outbreaks in 2006, there was an upsurge of food safety news on the Internet, and consumers have continued to return to the Internet for information on food safety, he said.

Blogs on food safety are an innovative way to communicate with today's food handlers, Powell said.

"It is especially important to reach younger individuals, who at some point might handle food in a food service business and who get their information from nontraditional media like blogs," he said.

One such blog is Powell's barfblog.com, a site that receives more than 5,000 visitors daily. The site operates with the understanding that to compel audiences to change their food-handling behaviors, the messages should be rapid, reliable, relevant and repeated, Powell said. The blog is available at http://www.barfblog.com

The content combines pop culture references and current events with food-handling information to engage readers. The posts also combine food safety messages with personal experiences, which connect readers to the effects of foodborne illness on families and communities, he said.

"Up to 30 percent of all Americans will get sick from the food and water they consume each year. That's just way too many sick people," Powell said. "The site is all about providing information in a compelling manner, using pop culture and different languages, to ultimately have fewer sick people."

The other authors of the article include: Amy Hubbell, K-State assistant professor of modern languages; Casey Jacob, K-State research assistant in diagnostic medicine and pathobiology; and Benjamin Chapman, food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University.