Questions to Answer

What questions do we have about the project, do we hear from others when discussing, and do we feel need to be addressed for the users to better understand the four principles of the National Fight Bac program. These may need to be fleshed out before mapping out the project completely.

If food-borne illness is such a big problem, wouldn't we hear about it more often... with more people getting sick?

There are more than 76 million cases of foodborne illness every year causing more than 5,000 deaths. So, something like 1 in 4 people get foodborne illness every year. Often, milder forms of foodborne illness aren't recognized, but rather mistaken for the flu since symptoms can be similar (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever). People do not associate these illnesses with food because the onset of symptoms often occurs two or more days after the contaminated food was eaten.

My grandmother has eaten (fill in the blank here, raw meat, chicken thawed on the counter, etc.) every day of her life and hasn't gotten sick... why should I worry?

We have bacteria today that we didn't have 20 years ago. This is because bacteria have the ability to evolve and types of bacteria that weren't harmful 20 years ago have now become pathogenic (harmful). A good example is E. coli. Everyone has E. coli bacteria in their intestine and the types that are normally there are not dangerous at all. Over the last 20 years, a strain of E. coli has changed and is now the E. coli O157:H7 strain. This strain is very pathogenic and is the one you hear about in the news causing children to die from eating hamburger that hasn't been cooked thoroughly or unpasteurized apple juice. Other bacteria that have mutated over the last 20 years and are major health risks today include listeria and campylobacter.

So different bacteria is part of the problem. Also with foodborne illness, you typically have to have several events that happen in order for enough bacteria to grow to dangerous levels. For example, to get E. coli O157:H7 infection from a hamburger, the hamburger would have to contain E. coli O157:H7 in the first place (not all hamburgers are contaminated) and the hamburger would also have to be cooked to a temperature lower that 160 degrees (E coli O157:H7 is killed by high temperatures). It's a bit like Russian Roulette, a person may be lucky for a long time. But, why take that chance if you can avoid it. Diarrhea is no fun (I think even kids can relate to that one!) and in worse case scenarios, it can kill you. I also think a seat belt analogy is good. Just because a person never wears a seat belt and has never been injured in a car, doesn't mean their not putting themselves at risk.

What about those anti-bacterial products... I hear good things about them, but also that they cause new strains of bacteria. What should I believe?

Food safety experts are not very enthusiastic about all the anti-bacterial products. While it has not been proven that these are causing new strains of bacteria, this is theoretically a possibility. Plain old soap and water is very effective in removing bacteria and that is the standard recommendation for hand washing or washing other surfaces in the home. (In commercial food operations, there is a requirement to use sanitizing agents, such as chlorine. But these are different than the anti-bacterial products and not thought to be any problem in causing bacteria to change.)

Is there such a thing as good bacteria?

YES!!!! Most definitely. Good bacteria make possible many of our food and beverages such as yogurt, cheese and beer. There are also helpful bacteria in the intestines that make vitamins (and do other good things) and in the environment that break down waste products.

Development Questions

What are 4th and 5th graders doing in the kitchen... how much supervision? How much responsiblity? Cooking? Menu planning? Ordering at Restaurants?

How can we enable youth to speak to their parents about food borne illness? If they see a parent or grandparent doing something dangerous if food preparation, how can we help them address the situation without villainizing the adult?

What standards should we use as a guide for science, math, etc?

What do members of our target audience already think about germs? What core concepts about germs/bacteria are they able to understand?

What can be taught about math using this project? Could we address probability (not everyone who eats dangerous food will get sick...)?

What other questions do we have?