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Keywords:

  • consumer confidence;
  • food defense;
  • intentional contamination;
  • risk communication

Abstract:  Effective food safety and food defense risk communication helps to inform consumers without causing panic and alarm. The Risk Communication Team of the Natl. Center for Food Protection and Defense has developed a list of 11 best practices recommended for effective risk communication. These practices, designed for a food defense crisis, are currently applied to food safety issues, since fortunately a food defense crisis has yet to occur. IFT examined the utility of these best practices and the limitations on their use during food safety and food defense crises by academics, trade associations, and the government. It was hypothesized that legal and business considerations as well as the nature of the event would determine the implementation of the best practices. Through the use of focus group meetings, it was discovered that there was a low level of awareness of the best practices. However, stakeholders practiced some aspects of the recommended practices. Participants felt some of the practices were related and could be consolidated. They also agreed that a food defense event will increase the urgency of the communication and include players not typically involved in food safety issues. The challenges reported by the stakeholders varied, but legal liability, as well as the impact their communications could have on an industry, were often cited. From the government perspective, their need to act within their authorities drove some of their actions with respect to communication. Determining the differences in communication limitations during food safety against food defense events can provide key information to further developing and refining risk communications and specific messages targeted for a food defense incident.

Practical Application:  Effective food safety and food defense risk communication helps to inform consumers without causing panic and alarm. Determining the differences in communication limitations during food safety against food defense events can provide key information to further developing and refining risk communications and specific messages targeted for a food defense incident.