This weekend, USDA’s Food Safety Discovery Zone is stopped at the Iowa State Fair, and the Discovery Zone’s staff of U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Officers, is relishing the opportunities for food safety lessons that the fair environment provides. Daytime temperatures are exceeding the 90-degree mark, sparking discussions about how to keep food safe in hot weather, and the intense crowd means the Discovery Zone’s message is reaching tons of people.
An aerial tramway conveys fairgoers high above the Discovery Zone, which is located in the “Machinery Grounds" outdoor area of the 435 acre fairground. Hosted since 1879 in southeastern Des Moines suburbs, the Iowa State Fair annually attracts more than a million fairgoers and was the inspiration for the novel State Fair by Iowan Phil Stong, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical of the same name, and three motion pictures.
“The hot, humid weather gives us a great opportunity to talk about safe food handling,” said LCDR Ieshia Jones, one of three U.S. Public Health Service officers on staff. “A number of attendees are bringing their lunches to the fair. USDA’s recommendation is to keep everything on ice—at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. We’re giving out appliance thermometers to keep in their coolers so they can tell how cold the food is.”
“Although it's HOT, I enjoy the interaction with consumers,” said LCDR Carol McAlman. There's always an ‘ahh—I didn't know that’ moment. For example, in weather over 90 degrees, the ‘two-hour rule’ for leaving perishable food out of a refrigerator drops to one hour because of faster bacterial growth.”
USDA’s Food Safety Discovery Zone is a 40-foot long interactive learning laboratory on wheels containing hands-on food safety stations that reinforce USDA's Be Food Safe messages: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill. The Discovery Zone is delivering food safety information to towns and cities throughout the U.S. to improve public food safety awareness and behavior, ultimately preventing foodborne illness.
"Wow, this Food Safety Discovery Zone is a great learning tool,” commented a second grade school teacher visiting the Iowa State Fair with her class. “Our kids are learning about healthy living. The food safety message as a part of healthy living is a good example, and the kids learned a lot," she told LCDR Jones.
“Spectators have also commented on how they lack important food safety information, and how happy they are that USDA is here to provide such great information,” reports LCDR Sherry Spriggs.
USDA’s Food Safety Discovery Zone will be at the Iowa State Fair from August 12 to 16, between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Next weekend, it travels to the Illinois State Fair from August 19 to 22. You can follow the Discovery Zone’s activities on Twitter and on Facebook.