Food safety hotline adds e-mail address

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COLUMBUS — For the first time, consumers can reach a food safety hotline at Ohio State University by e-mail at foodsafety@osu.edu.

Due to a partnership between The Kroger Co. and the Center for Innovative Food Technology, Ohio State’s Food Safety Hotline — 800-752-2751 — has had trained students answering calls from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday since July.

Before that, callers usually would leave a message unless a faculty member was immediately available to assist. The hotline has been available since 1985 and is housed in the university’s Food Industries Center in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Hotline coordinator Stephanie Smith, a food scientist with Center for Innovative Food Technology, and other faculty and staff involved with the hotline realized that many of the people who called didn’t have easy access to the Internet.

Information electronically

That’s when they began thinking: What about the people who do have such access? Since many people prefer to get information electronically, they decided to add the e-mail address to the hotline options, offering consumers another option for easily accessible information and answers to their food safety questions.

The foodsafety@osu.edu address has just been launched. Questions e-mailed to that address will automatically go to the students answering hotline questions as well as a group of faculty members studying different aspects of food safety from the Department of Food Science and Technology, the Department of Human Nutrition, the Food Industries Center and Ohio State University Extension.

Specific information

Although food-safety information is widely available on the Internet, particularly on the Web sites of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they can be difficult to navigate, particularly in trying to find specific information.

That’s where the hotline — both phone and e-mail — can help. In their downtime, the students answering questions on the hotline are developing a comprehensive database of food-safety related questions and answers to draw upon in answering future questions.

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