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Publication #FCS8797

Identifying Accurate Internet Resources for Nutrition, Food Safety, and Health Demonstrations1

Amy Simonne and Linda B. Bobroff2

One of the goals of Florida 4-H activities is to help young people develop skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. These skills can help youth acquire knowledge, develop initiative, assume responsibility, achieve satisfaction from work and accomplishments, and develop a positive self-image. Learning life skills includes asking questions, doing research, and solving problems. This learning happens when 4-Hers prepare for public speaking and demonstrations.

Acquiring research-based information is critical for the development of accurate demonstrations. Demonstration projects that are scientifically sound and credible reflect well on the 4 Her, the county Extension 4-H program, IFAS, and University of Florida. County faculty and volunteers have knowledge and skills in many areas. The goal of this fact sheet is to assist 4-H county faculty and volunteers in directing youth to accurate, research-based sources of information on nutrition, food safety, and health.

Figure 1. 

From "Critical thinking: Why our students need it and resources for teaching it"


Created by Dave Maki for License: CC BY-SA 2.0. Source:

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Internet Safety for Parents and Youth Leaders

Researching information on the Internet exposes young people to a vast amount of information from a wide array of sources, many of which they would otherwise not be exposed to. Parents and youth leaders should obtain information on Internet safety from the FBI website at before the young people begin an Internet search.

How to Identify Reliable Internet Sources

Several search engines (e.g., Google, AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, Yahoo, and WebCrawler) are available for exploring the Internet. All of them offer basic searches based on key words. Most of these search engines allow users to specify search options such as simple, advanced, or refined searches using Boolean operators (“AND,” “OR,” “AND NOT”), which are commonly used in traditional database searches. However, each of the search engines may reach different Internet domains. Once sources of information are identified, only reliable Internet sources should be used. As a general rule, reliable sources come from website addresses that end with “.gov,” “.edu,” and “.org.” Some “.com” sites contain reliable information, but may have a commercial bias. MedlinePlus provides a tutorial to help people search the Web, available at The tutorial also is available from the Information for Librarians and Trainers page at

Sites Ending in ".gov"

Government websites are designated as “.gov.” In the United States, “.gov” sites can belong to federal, state, or local governments. These sites should provide reliable and unbiased information. However, one should notice the date the information was posted to the website.

If the goal is to get the latest information on particular issues in food science, food technology, nutrition, food safety, and health, the best sources to start with are federal government websites. State and local government websites provide information that pertains to state and local issues and interests. In order to ensure accuracy, Internet information should be verified by checking with printed information, such as research journals, or consulting with experts in that field of study. Florida 4‑H youth also can contact the county Extension staff to obtain information for their projects. Each state in the United States has at least one land-grant university, so youth in all states can contact their county Extension staff members, who receive information and training from state specialists at their land-grant university. Food safety/nutrition state specialists can be found through the federal government website at

Sites Ending in ".edu"

This designates a university or other educational institution website. In general, information from “.edu” websites is based on research findings that are unbiased and reviewed by other experts in that field. As with all sites, be sure to check the date when the information was posted to the website.

Sites Ending in ".org"

Websites run by groups such as professional organizations, groups of governments such as the United Nations (UN), multi-agency groups, nonprofit organizations, consumer groups, trade organizations, and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have the “.org” designation. It is advisable to screen these websites very carefully before citing the information. One way of screening information is to cross-check the information with one or more reliable sources or to check with experts in the field. The websites of organizations such as the American Heart Association (, the International Association of Food Protection ( and the Institute of Food Technologists ( provide accurate, comprehensive, and reliable information.

Sites Ending in ".com"

Commercial sites have a “.com” designation. Commercial websites sometimes provide useful and reliable information; however, one needs to evaluate the information carefully. Commercial sites may be more interested in selling product(s) or promoting their opinion than in providing accurate and unbiased information.

Figure 2. 

Surfing the web


Image by Viktor Hertz. License: CC BY 2.0. Source:

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Table 1. 

Food Science and Technology/Food Safety Websites

The website of the Institute of Food Technologists provides access to both members and the public on subjects related to food science, food technology, food safety, and nutrition.

This website of the International Association for Food Protection provides information specifically on food safety for both professionals and consumers.

The United States Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition provides information on the safety of products regulated by the FDA.

This site is a gateway to all food safety information provided by federal and state government agencies for consumers, professionals, and others. This website also connects users to state agencies with a role in food safety such as the state department of health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information on diseases and pathogens, environmental hazards, and surveillance illness data as well as emerging food safety and health issues.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides safety information related to environmental issues. This includes industrial chemicals and other man-made products.

The EDIS website (Electronic Data Information Source) at University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is a comprehensive, single-source repository of all current UF/IFAS numbered peer-reviewed publications that provide research-based information on various topics including food safety, nutrition, and health. The website is equipped with a search engine to assist visitors with navigating the collection.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education's website provides educational materials related to safe food handling. It supplies materials for educators, media, and consumers.

This site belongs to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). It provides information on topics from home food safety to desktop dining.

The World Health Organization (WHO) website provides information related to food, nutrition, food safety, and health. The organization also provides publications on issues that are relevant to both the underdeveloped and developed world.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) website provides science-based information on various food safety regulations and issues pertaining to the Europe Union.

The website of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service provides food safety information on meat, poultry, and egg products as well as seasonal food safety tips. The information generally is related to the products that are regulated under this program.

Table 2. 

Nutrition Websites

This is the web page of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). It provides science-based information related to nutrition, health, and well-being.

Dubbed Smart Nutrition Starts Here, is the federal government's gateway to reliable information on nutrition, healthy eating, physical activity, and food safety for consumers, educators, and health professionals.

This is a search page to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. A search tool also is provided so users can look up the nutrient content of over 7,000 different foods directly from this page.

Just about any health statistic can be found at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics website.

The USDA's Food and Nutrition Information Center provides reliable resources for consumers, nutrition and health professionals, and educators. The site includes downloadable educational materials, government reports, research articles, and more.

The site for the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides consumers and professionals free health information related to a variety of health conditions. It also includes information about clinical trials.

The USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotio nprovides leadership for the development of educational materials, including those for MyPlate. Here you can find educational materials and information related to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the interactive Healthy Eating Index, and many other resources for adults and children. You also can link to the USDA's other program websites, such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), etc.

The American Diabetes Association website provides information about diabetes research, prevention, and other helpful information for persons with diabetes, health professionals, and the general public.

The American Heart Association website provides information on heart diseases and conditions, including heart attack and stroke warning signs, healthy lifestyles, publications, and resources available to the public.

The American Cancer Society website provides information on types of cancers, statistics, current research, how to stay healthy, and various resources for support and treatment.

The American Institute for Cancer Research educates the public about cancer, the results of current research on cancer prevention, and strategies for reducing cancer risk.



This publication is FCS8797, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Published October 2006. Reviewed with minor revisions September 2011. Visit the EDIS website at


Amy Simonne, PhD, professor, and Linda B. Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, professor; Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences; Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; University of Florida; Gainesville, FL 32611.

The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication do not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.