Iowa State University


Jim Huss, Families Extension, (515) 294-3527
Peggy Sherry, Families Extension, (515) 294-1592
Michelle Johnson, News Service, (515) 294-8986


AMES, Iowa -- Oh, no! Chef Artichoker is thawing the Thanksgiving turkey at room temperature. The evil Petri J. Contaminator threatens to infect it with vile bacteria. Food safety superheroes Cooker and sidekick, Mini-baster, save the day -- and Thanksgiving dinner!

A new Saturday morning cartoon? No, a Web-based comic strip containing an important lesson in food safety.

The comic strip is part of "Safe Food: It's up to You," a food safety curriculum designed specifically for young people by Peggy Sherry, a research associate in Iowa State University's Extension to Families. The curriculum is being piloted in food science and nutrition courses at 15 Iowa high schools.

Chef Artichoker, owner of Artichoker's Cafe, learned a valuable lesson from Cooker and Mini-baster: Meat must be thawed in a sink with cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or it can be contaminated with foodborne pathogens.

"Most food safety education efforts target an adult audience," said Sherry. "We are missing a crucial opportunity to educate our young people about the dangers of foodborne illnesses and the power they have in preventing them."

The curriculum's four lessons are presented in simple language and are accompanied by colorful artwork. Each lesson is administered entirely over the Web.

A turkey named FAT TOM guides students through the characteristics of food in lesson four. Each characteristic begins with a letter in FAT TOM's name: Food, Acidity, Time, Temperature, Oxygen, and Moisture. FAT TOM even raps for those using computers with sound capabilities.

Each lesson is followed by an achievement test which students complete and check against the computer. If their answers are incorrect, they must repeat the lesson. Once they have completed all four lessons successfully, the computer enables them to print a certificate of completion to be signed by their instructor.

"Let's face it, food safety isn't a real flashy topic," Sherry said. "Our curriculum was designed to bring food safety education to life. If students remember FAT TOM or Petri J. Contaminator, chances are good they'll remember the lessons behind them."

Teachers in participating schools will evaluate the Web-based curriculum and provide feedback to Sherry and fellow researchers Jim Huss and Pat Redlinger, both ISU Families Extension program specialists.

The curriculum is part of a larger food safety education initiative funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. Sherry, Huss and Redlinger have designed an extensive food safety Web page network with information on everything from packing food safety at a tailgate party, to 10 steps consumers can take to keep their kitchens safe from foodborne illness. The group has also designed educational displays and materials for a variety of audiences.

"Over the past few years, consumers' confidence in regulatory agencies has been shaken a bit," said Sherry. "Through this initiative, we hope that consumers of all ages will begin taking a more active role in protecting themselves from foodborne illness."

The ISU Food Safety Web site can be found at:

Visitors to the site will find a link to the food safety curriculum.



Enclosed is a bookmark listing Consumer Control Points, another lesson in Iowa State's food safety curriculum. Originated by Peggy Sherry, these catchy slogans help consumers properly purchase, store, prepare, cook and serve foods. Also enclosed is a copy of "The Danger Zone" comic strip found in lesson one of the curriculum.

The following is a list of Iowa schools where the curriculum is being tested:

Ames High School

Ankeny High School

Audubon Community High School

Bedford Community High School

Bondurant-Farrar High School

Cedar Falls High School

Des Moines, Central Campus

Clarke Community High School

Fort Dodge Senior High School

Jefferson-Scranton High School

Knoxville Senior High

Melcher-Dallas High School

Ogden Community High School

Pleasantville Community High School

Winterset High School

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