Chapman requests photos for citizen food safety project

Date posted: October 9, 2013

Brats with thermometer(Ben Chapman photo)Tailgate food safety: Checking bratwurst with a Comark PDT300 digital tip-sensitive thermometer.

Media Contact: Dr. Ben Chapman, benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu or 919.515.8099

What can we learn about food safety, through the eyes of people fixing dinner at home, shopping at the farmers market or dining in a restaurant? That’s what Dr. Ben Chapman, assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at N.C. State University, set out to find out with a new citizen food safety project.

Chapman has invited readers and followers of his barfblog, a food safety blog, to take photos that suggest food safety and post them to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag “#citizenfoodsafety.” And the photos are coming in…

Chapman said the idea for #citizenfoodsafety was several years in the making. At first, he considered buying disposable cameras and getting them into people’s hands to record food safety images. As smartphones with good cameras became more popular, he turned instead to social media to have people submit photos.

Chapman’s suggestion for the photo submissions is pretty simple, “What does food safety mean to you?” As Chapman collects photos from social media sites, he is sharing them on a Tumblr site.

Some examples of user-defined food safey that have been tagged for the project include:

  • Apples in an orchard lying on the ground
  • Apple cider being pressed
  • Salads with sprouts
  • A dirty toilet at a truck stop
  • A refrigerator thermometer, and
  • Chapman’s own photo of a bratwurst with a meat thermometer in it.

The idea of using photos to depict food safety isn’t new, Chapman said in a blog post for Scientific American.

Nearly a decade ago, public health officials in South Korea created the Sikparazzi movement, asking citizens eating at restaurants to take pictures of food sanitation infractions. The resulting photos were sent to health inspectors who would follow-up, and in some cases, assess a fine the offenders. The experiment was repeated in the United Kingdon in 2008, and there have been other examples of food safety concerns being shared via Internet from New York and Toronto.

Chapman is hoping that with enough photos, the Tumblr stream could become a repository to better understand what a sample of the online population sees as food safety. “What is food safety in the broadest sense?” he said. “As a technical expert, I might not see something as a food safety issue. What do people see as risk factors, and do those risk factors actually cause illness?”

Chapman shares news of food safety and foodborne illness at barfblog.com. He also contributes to the N.C. Cooperative Extension site Food Myths and Memes, which includes news about food, food safety, nutrition, eating and health. Follow Chapman on Twitter @benjaminchapman or on Instagram at barfblogben.

-N. Hampton

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