CHICAGO — If the U.S. food supply was attacked, would the public know what to do? The answer is dependent upon the risk communications practices of the stakeholders involved.
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) recently undertook a study to determine whether people working within the United States food system are using best practices for risk communication recommended by the Risk Communication Team of the National Center for Food Defense and Protection (NCFPD). The results of this study are included in the April issue of the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists.
The researchers sought to understand what barriers exist to different groups--food industry, government and academic scientists--that impact the nature of their messages to consumers. Results of focus group discussions among stakeholders indicated there was a low level of awareness of best practices; however they were already using some aspects of the recommended practices. The participants agreed that a food defense event will increase the urgency of the communication and include players not typically involved in food safety issues such as the police, Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
All participants recognized that the media and consumers use Internet search engines as primary sources of information. As the accessibility and influence of information has increased, the nature of media inquiries has shifted from reporters seeking to gain knowledge to reporters already having the information and seeking commentary. All groups showed interest in becoming more active in social media, but expressed concern about the potential for misinformation to be spread through this communication outlet.
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.
For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit ift.org .