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USDA Secretary Vilsack and HHS Secretary Sebelius Launch First Joint National Multimedia Campaign to Help Families Prevent Food Poisoning


CDC Estimates One in Six Americans Get Sick from Food Poisoning Each Year

WASHINGTON, — The Ad Council is joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, in partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to debut their first joint national multimedia public service campaign to help families prevent food poisoning in the home.

The Food Safe Families campaign was announced this morning by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in time for the July 4th holiday and the start of summer when foodborne illnesses tend to increase—a time when many families celebrate with food. It’s also a time when foodborne illnesses tend to increase with more outdoor meals, and other factors that increase the risk for disease-causing bacteria in food.

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is a serious public health threat in the U.S. 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. While USDA, HHS and other federal government agencies are dedicated to protecting consumers by setting and enforcing food safety standards, it is also the federal government’s responsibility to give consumers important safety information for safe food handling in the home.

Created pro bono by ad agency JWT New York, the new Food Safe Families public service 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 humorous over-the-top depictions of the four key safe food handling behaviors, the television public service advertisements (PSAs) urge parents to keep their families safer from food poisoning and deliver clear steps to reduce their risk. Audiences are encouraged to achieve the following safe food handling behaviors:

*Clean: Clean kitchen surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water while preparing food.
*Separate: Separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards.
*Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer.
*Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly.

“The launch of the Ad Council campaign comes at a time of heightened attention to food safety issues, when American families are looking for clear and concise information on how to better protect themselves,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Ensuring the safety of food is a top priority for USDA and we work with the meat and poultry industry each day on best practices to decrease potential risks. The Ad Council campaign has the potential to generate unprecedented national exposure to issues of food safety and foodborne illness prevention.”

“Our food safety strategy is based on preventing food safety problems, and these efforts must begin where food is produced and continue where food is processed and marketed,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Consumers also play a role in preventing food safety problems by properly handling, preparing and storing food in the home. This campaign will help consumers understand their role in farm-to-table food safety.”

The campaign includes English and Spanish-language television, radio, print, and Web advertising, as well as an integrated social media program. The program includes a new Facebook page and outreach via the Twitter handle, both emphasizing “Check Your Steps.” All campaign elements direct audiences to visit, a recently refreshed and updated site in English ( and Spanish (, where they can learn about food safety practices. Consumers can also access “Ask Karen” (, an online database with answers to nearly 1,500 questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses.

“When it comes to food safety, our number one priority is prevention,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “Knowing that the risk of foodborne illnesses may never be zero, it is important for us to get the word out about what consumers can do.”

At USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the primary focus is preventing foodborne illness by making sure that industry produces safe meat, poultry and processed egg products and the department is constantly looking for ways to improve that system.

*In the past 15 years, illnesses from E. coli O157:H7 have been cut in half, in large part because of the beef safety policies put in place by USDA.
*In this Administration’s watch, we have met the objective for E. coli illness rates proposed in the Healthy People 2010 initiative.
*Our Administration has put forward tougher performance standards for Salmonella and the first-ever standards for Campylobacter in poultry.
*This Administration has unveiled a policy that will require that the products we test will be held from market until those tests are confirmed.
*In addition to the Ad Council efforts, USDA’s FSIS has continued to break new ground with consumer education, including introduction of the Mobile Ask Karen smartphone web application.

“We are proud to join the USDA and the federal government on this first ever Ad Council campaign to help parents and families protect against foodborne illness,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “Consumer education focused on safe food handling and preparation practices is essential and these new ads, as well as our targeted outreach in both traditional and non-traditional media, will help motivate consumers to take critical steps that will keep their families safe and healthy.”

The Ad Council is distributing the new PSAs to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide. The ads will air and run in advertising time and space entirely donated by the media. Several media companies have committed to supporting the PSAs prior to their launch. For example, the Meredith Corporation Local Media Group and Parade will be supporting the PSAs in the upcoming months.

“The goal of the campaign is to break through the complacency to educate people about something they don’t worry or necessarily think about, namely food safety,” said Bill Oberlander, executive creative director, JWT New York. “Using humor and hyperbolic metaphors we drove home the four ways a family can be ’food safer’ in a way that will grab people’s attention and helps them learn the basic steps to avoid foodborne illnesses. JWT is proud to be a part of this important effort.”

The Ad Council has been partnering with USDA on public service campaigns for over 65 years, beginning with the Wildfire Prevention campaign featuring Smokey Bear in 1944. They have also collaborated on efforts addressing Nutrition Education and Childhood Obesity Prevention.


The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is the public health regulatory agency in 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. During Fiscal Year 2010, FSIS inspection personnel ensured public health requirements were met by inspecting 147 million head of livestock, nine billion poultry carcasses, and 2.6 billion pounds of processed egg products. FSIS also conducted eight million food safety and food defense procedures to verify that the systems at all Federal establishments met food safety and wholesomeness requirements.


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


CDC works 24/7 to save lives, protect people from health threats, and save money resulting in a more secure nation. CDC puts science and prevention into action to make the healthy choice the easy choice. CDC helps people live longer and healthier to lead productive lives.

The Ad Council

The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization that marshals talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to produce, distribute and promote public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies in issue areas such as improving the quality of life for children, preventive health, education, community well-being, environmental preservation and strengthening families.

JWT New York

JWT is the world’s best-known marketing communications brand. Headquartered in New York, JWT is a true global network with more than 200 offices in over 90 countries employing nearly 10,000 marketing professionals.

JWT consistently ranks among the top agency networks in the world and continues its dominant presence in the industry by staying on the leading edge—from producing the first-ever TV commercial in 1939 to developing award-winning branded content for brands such as Freixenet, Ford and HSBC.

JWT’s pioneering spirit enables the agency to forge deep relationships with clients including Bayer, Bloomberg, Cadbury, Diageo, DTC, Ford, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft, Microsoft, Nestlé, Nokia, Rolex, Royal Caribbean, Schick, Shell, Unilever, Vodafone and many others. JWT’s parent company is WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY).


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