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Middle School Food Safety Lessons

Lesson 1 The 4Cs of USDA ScientistsFood Safety
National Health Education Standards
(grades 5-8)
1:1; 1:8; 3:4; 6:3
  1. Introduce this lesson:
    “Food safety is a very important issue that we will be pursuing for this lesson and the four that follow. Essentially, food safety is everyone's responsibility — everyone involved in growing, processing, transporting, and handling our food along all the points in our complex food distribution system. Food safety is a serious issue that affects the wellbeing of every individual. We all must eat so we are all at risk of becoming ill if our food becomes contaminated.” (State if you are teaching all five lessons.)
  2. State:
    “Let's get started. We have a great deal to cover to begin our understanding of this important issue. I want you to remember the points we make in this lesson. Remembering could truly affect your life.”
activity 1
  1. Can I Take Your Order?
    Walk up to one student and ask:
    “Can I take your order, please? How do you like your hamburger? What would you like on your salad?”
  2. Take 2 or 3 more orders and write them down. Then ask (if students haven't already asked teachers you):
    “What do you think the hamburger, orange juice, and salad have to do with health?”
  3. List student answers on the board. Then ask: “Which of the foods would you most like to eat? What do you want on it? Is there anything that might be on the hamburger, in the orange juice, or in the salad that you didn't order?”
  4. Give students a few hints. Hopefully, someone will mention bacteria. Then say:
    “Aha! You have your first clue to the connection between these foods and health.”
  5. Ask:
    “Have you or has anyone you know ever become ill from eating food?” Encourage students to express, when? what? and where? “How could you get sick from a hamburger, orange juice, or a salad?” (You can get sick if harmful bacteria are present in the food.)
activity 2

Use the following exercise to emphasize how prevalent foodborne illness is and to help students realize the seriousness of this issue and how it is related to them.

  1. Ask students:
    “How many of you have been affected by foodborne illness?” Write that number on the board.
  2. Now compute what percentage of the class thinks they have had foodborne illness.
  3. Using that percentage, ask your students to estimate how many students in the entire school might have had foodborne illness.

(Note: Tell the students that this is only an assumption, and not an actual survey. This information is simply to help the students relate to the statistics that you are about to give them.)

  1. Point to the information already on the board regarding foodborne illness.
  2. Discuss:
    “There are approximately 274 million people in America. If 76 million people become sick due to foodborne illness, ask the students to calculate the percent of the population affected. Discuss the students' reactions to this percentage and have them relate it to the percentage calculated for the class. Then reiterate the importance of studying food safety.”
activity 3 (optional) (For use if teacher wishes to complete entire five lesson unit)
  1. Ask the students to form the following three teams: hamburger, orange juice, and salad. Then ask:
    “How do you think the hamburger, orange juice, or salad got to you?”
    Let them brainstorm for about 10 minutes and list their ideas. This provides the segue to the Farm-to-Table Continuum.
  2. Show students the Food Safety Farm-to-Table illustration. Let them crosscheck their lists with the Farm-to-Table Continuum. They may include even more steps, and that’s good—it shows that they are thinking!
  3. Now ask:
    “Whose responsibility is it to keep this hamburger, orange juice, and salad safe form harmful bacteria?”
    Hopefully, the students will come up with it’s everyone’s responsibility, including their own once the food is in their possession. Discuss the reasons we all play a role in protecting our food supply.
  4. Students should begin a notebook related to food safety. They should place Food Safety: Farm to Table Continuum in this notebook
activity 4
Time to Tune In
Module 1—Understanding Bacteria (15 min.)
  1. Introduce the video by explaining:
    “There’s a lot of science behind keeping our food safe. Let’s begin by meeting Dr. X, a crusading food scientist who’s dedicated his life to fighting harmful bacteria and foodborne illness, and Tracy, a student working on her science video project, who teams up with him on his mission.”
  2. “I challenge you to uncover the following food-safety science links (found on the sheet being passed out) as you watch the video:
  • What four weapons does Dr. X use to fight harmful bacteria?
  • What is the significance of the mysterious 0157:H7?
  • What is Dr. X referring to when he talks about the “baddest of the bad?”
  • What does DNA have to do with bacteria? What does it tell us?”
  1. Show video Module 1—Understanding Bacteria (Time: 15 minutes).
activity 5
  • “Dr. X talked about his four food safety weapons for fighting harmful bacteria; what are they?” (Clean, Cook, Chill, and Combat Cross-Contamination)
  • “What’s the significance of 0157:H7?” (E.coli 0157:H7 is one kind of E.coli that causes foodborme illness. E.coli evolved from the harmless E.coli bacterium.)
  • “Dr. X described the “baddest of the bad;” what was he referring to?” (The 12 Most Unwanted Bacteria that cause foodborne illness.)
  • “What does DNA have to do with bacteria?” (DNA encodes the information that enables bacteria to grow, reproduce, and cause illness.)
  • “What does DNA tell us?” (When there is an outbreak of foodborne illness, epidemiologists use the pathogen’s DNA fingerprint to determine the source of bacteria.)
  • “What does science have to do with food safety?” (Food safety has everything to do with controlling bacteria. There are all kinds of scientists dedicated to developing methods to keep our food supply safe.)
  • “Whose responsibility is it to keep our food supply safe along the Farm-to-Table Continuum?” (It’s everyone’s responsibility.)
  • “What effect do each of the 4Cs have on bacteria?” (Cleaning removes bacteria from hands and surfaces. Cooking [heat] kills bacteria by breaking down their cell walls. Chilling slows down the bacteria’s metabolism, thus slowing their growth. Combating Cross-Contamination prevents the spread of bacteria from one object to another.)
Summarize by saying:
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to control the spread of bacteria—from the farmer, the food processor, the person who transports our food, the people who work in supermarkets and restaurants, and consumers when they take the food home. (In our next lesson we are going to find out more about the path food takes along the Farm-to-Table Continuum.)* Remember to keep washing your hands!”
(*If you are teaching lesson 2.)
integration ideas
Ask the students to:
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Rhode Island Department of Education

Rhode Island Department of Health

University of Rhode Island

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