(Originally published on SFA Facebook)
Read on to learn more about Wendy’s role in community engagement at the Singapore Food Agency and why an animal mascot is her secret weapon/tool!
LET'S TALK ABOUT FOOD SAFETY
Wendy engages the public on both food safety and food supply resilience issues but she feels outreach on food safety is a little more challenging to execute.
“Most people don’t think they have a role to play in food safety – we take it for granted until something happens. In SFA, we believe that education is key to food safety. We make it engaging and interactive for our audience so that they learn in a fun way.”
Wendy does all that through talks, roadshows, and events. “We’ve gone to pre-schools and schools, as well as set up booths at community and grassroots events so that we reach out to every age group in Singapore.”
TOOL #1: Patience
Wendy has met consumers who needed more convincing when it comes to educating them on good food safety habits.
“For example, they could have been preparing their food the wrong way for the longest time. But they feel it’s ok to continue doing the same thing as they have not fallen sick so far.”
She has to overcome this ‘resistance’ with patience and understanding.
“Some consumers are not fully aware of proper food safety practices. Even after they adopt these practices, they may revert to their old ways later. Hence, we need to regularly reinforce good food safety habits.”
LEARNING OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
Since SFA’s formation in April this year, Wendy has led several learning journeys – experiential learning in a real life setting - for preschools.
She brings pre-schoolers out of their classrooms to supermarkets around Singapore where they can use their five senses to learn about food safety.
“We are working more with pre-schools as kids, at the age of five and six are very impressionable and absorb information readily. They can in turn educate their parents and even their grandparents at home!”
TOOL#2: Educational materials
Wendy’s role is more than just chitchatting with the community. She has to find ways to get them interested in the topic of food safety.
To do that, she brainstorms ideas and comes up with creative materials such as jigsaws, activity sheets, and games.
“The trick is to get them interested in the activity, like colouring for pre-schoolers and for older kids and adults, shooting games using props that resemble the toy guns like ‘Nerf guns’.”
A JOINT RESPONSIBILITY
Food safety issues have always been a hot topic and even more so in the past year, with much media and public interest in gastroenteritis (commonly known as food poisoning) outbreaks in Singapore.
When such outbreaks occur, some are quick to lay blame on the food industry but sometimes, other factors could be at play. Bad environmental and personal hygiene could also cause people to come down with food poisoning.
“As consumers, we could have unknowingly contributed to the outbreak. For example, not washing hands after going to the toilet, preparing food when you are sick, or not storing food properly at home.”
She advised, “Being aware of food safety risks and diligently following good food safety practices can go a long way in helping to reduce these incidents.”
Speaking to a diverse audience - from pre-schoolers to aunties and uncles – Wendy has to tailor her presentation to make the topic of food safety relevant and appealing to different groups of people.
She has to think fast on her feet as well.
“I am asked many questions, sometimes all at once. Why are vegetables green? Is it safe to eat food past their expiry date? How do you know when food is cooked thoroughly?”
Agility also means being able to keep up with energetic pre-schoolers. Lucky for the young mum of one, she has ample training at home!
SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW FOOD SAFETY
Wendy and her team also conduct surveys to find out the level of awareness on food safety.
“We are interested to know whether consumers pay attention to food safety when they cook at home or eat out. Survey results are then used to plan our initiatives.”
And contrary to what many think, keeping food safe is more than just using common sense.
“There are some common misconceptions. Kids think that it’s ok to wash their hands with just water after going to the toilet when the correct way is to wash with both soap and water.”
For the adults, she said, “They are always surprised when they learn that they should not wash raw chicken to get rid of bacteria. Doing so can spread bacteria onto the hands, countertop, and kitchen equipment and may contaminate other food.”
TOOL#4: Oscar, the Food Safety Otter
Probably her favourite and most useful ‘tool’, Oscar the Food Safety Otter, is Wendy’s secret weapon.
Introduced in 2002, Oscar was chosen to be Singapore’s food safety mascot because the Asian otter observes good food safety habits such as washing its food before eating.
“Oscar is a hit with everyone! You can see the children’s faces light up when he’s around.
Having him at events and roadshows helps to start the conversation on food safety in a more light-hearted manner.”
PHOTO: MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh Mrs Josephine Teo mingling with Oscar and kids at a grassroots event in Sin Ming
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020