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K-State Today

July 12, 2011

Calls to food safety hot line show Canadians want to know how their food was produced

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

Hello, you want to do what with that food?

How to handle, store and prepare food were the most common questions Canadians had for a national food safety hot line, according to new research by Kansas State University faculty.

But those results mask the more detailed questions callers often had about how food was produced.

The results, published in the current issue of Food Protection Trends, detail 3,764 telephone inquiries from January 2003 through December 2005 to a national food safety hot line that was established at the University of Guelph. Other prevalent themes were specific products and brands, food preservation, non-food safety topics and emerging issues.

By collecting data on information needs, an information service -- whether it's a call center or social media -- can serve as a research tool, revealing information gaps and opportunities to develop or improve resources, said Doug Powell a professor of food safety at Kansas State.

"The call center was a unique contribution to Canadian food safety at the time," Powell said. "But information needs are continually evolving, which is why we publish daily food safety information in the form of an electronic mailing list at bites-l, a blog at barfblog.com and on Twitter."

The other authors, Ben Chapman and Sarah Wilson, are both adjunct professors at Kansas State. The three researchers continue to collaborate on new food safety messages and delivery media.