By: John Swann, Ph.D.
Twenty years ago, FDA was invaded by a hideous creature that today is still one of the most unforgettable and endearing artifacts in the FDA History vault. The giant green character (who came to life thanks to FDA staffers who wore the large ventilated costume) known as BAC, short for Bacteria, was the centerpiece of an FDA public education campaign designed to put a fearsome face on foodborne bacteria, thereby alerting Americans to the dangers of food contamination and how to avoid it in their kitchens.
The “Fight BAC campaign” grew out of the public-private Partnership for Food Safety Education, and was one of the core strategies of a 1997 report to the President on Food Safety. It wasn’t the first time FDA had developed a public health education campaign. Previous efforts used entertainers, sports figures, and others to inform the public about a variety of public health issues. But the Fight BAC campaign was one of the most effective, and BAC’s message to “Keep Food Safe from Bacteria” continues to have staying power – it’s still going strong 20 years later in support of FDA’s mission to protect and promote the health of the American public.
John Swann, Ph.D., is an FDA Historian