Teens injesting laundry detergent in what’s dubbed the Tide pod challenge

CBS News reports that in this latest social media fad, teenagers are putting detergent pods in their mouths in what’s being called the “Tide Pod Challenge.”

Ingredients in the pods include ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and polymers – a highly-toxic mix of detergent meant to wipe out dirt and grime. Manufacturers have been concerned about toddlers mistakenly ingesting them, but now teens are popping them on purpose and posting videos of the results online, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

Nineteen-year-old Marc Pagan, who did it on a dare, told CBS News he knew better but did it anyway.

“A lot of people were just saying how stupid I was or how – why would I be willing to do that,” he said. “No one should be putting anything like that in their mouths, you know?”

Ann Marie Buerkle, acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, says ingesting any of the liquid carries a deadly risk.

“This is what started out as a joke on the internet and now it’s just gone too far,” Buerkle said.

The pods are bright and colorful and to children they can look like candy. At least 10 deaths have been linked to ingesting these pods. Two were toddlers, eight were seniors with dementia.

Procter & Gamble, the maker of Tide products, told CBS News: “They should not be played with… Even if meant as a joke. Safety is no laughing matter.”

More than 62,000 children under the age of six were exposed to laundry and dishwasher detergents, between 2013 and 2014.

The next year, Consumer Reports said it would no longer recommend detergent packets, citing “the unique risks” while urging the “adoption of tougher safety measures.”

“Laundry detergent pods are highly concentrated detergent,” says Tammy Noble, a registered nurse and spokeswoman for the Iowa Poison Control Center. “Biting into them can cause diarrhea, some vomiting and sometimes that vomiting can even go on and on, excessive vomiting where we worry about it leading into dehydration.” Even if it’s being done as a joke and the person never intends to swallow the detergent, biting into the pod will likely make it squirt right down their gullet.

“It can cause burns in the mouth, the throat and the stomach,” Noble says. “Or there’s been cases where it accidentally gets into the lungs, where they aspirate it. That can cause significant breathing problems and sometimes that patient needs to be put on a ventilator to help them breathe.”

Identifying foodborne outbreaks using social media

As a new survey shows 95% of chefs cite customers getting sick as their top concern, a computer system developed by Columbia University with Health Department epidemiologists can detect foodborne illness and outbreaks in New York City restaurants based on keywords in Yelp reviews.

Using Yelp, 311, and reports from health care providers, the Health Department has identified and investigated approximately 28,000 complaints of suspected foodborne illness overall since 2012 and helped Health Department staff identify approximately 1,500 complaints of foodborne illness in NYC each year, for a total of 8,523 since July 2012.

Improvements to the computer system are the subject of a joint study published this week by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The Health Department and Columbia continue to expand the system to include other social media sources, such as Twitter, which was added to the system in November 2016. The computer system allows the Health Department to investigate incidents and outbreaks that might otherwise go undetected. New Yorkers are encouraged to call 311 to report any suspected foodborne illness.

“Working with our partners at Columbia University, the Health Department continues to expand its foodborne illness surveillance capabilities,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Today we not only look at complaints from 311, but we also monitor online sites and social media. I look forward to working with Columbia University on future efforts to build on this system. The Health Department follows up on all reports of foodborne illness – whether it is reported to 311 or Yelp.”

Each year,

“Effective information extraction regarding foodborne illness from social media is of high importance–online restaurant review sites are popular and many people are more likely to discuss food poisoning incidents in such sites than on official government channels,” said Luis Gravano and Daniel Hsu, who are coauthors of the study and professors of Computer Science at Columbia Engineering. “Using machine learning has already had a significant impact on the detection of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.”

“The collaboration with Columbia University to identify reports of food poisoning in social media is crucial to improve foodborne illness outbreak detection efforts in New York City,” said Health Department epidemiologists Vasudha Reddy and Katelynn Devinney, who are coauthors of the publication. “The incorporation of new data sources allows us to detect outbreaks that may not have been reported and for the earlier identification of outbreaks to prevent more New Yorkers from becoming sick.”

“I applaud DOHMH Commissioner Bassett for embracing the role that crowdsourcing technology can play in identifying outbreaks of foodborne illness. Public health must be forward-thinking in its approach to triaging both everyday and acute medical concerns,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Most restaurant-associated outbreaks are identified through the Health Department’s complaint system, which includes 311, Yelp, and reports from health care providers. Since 2012, the Department has identified and investigated approximately 28,000 suspected complaints of foodborne illness overall. The Health Department reviews and investigates all complaints of suspected foodborne illness in New York City.

Tell me what I already know: Social media and organic food risks

With the increased popularity of organic food production, new information about the risks attached to food products has become available. Consumers need to make sense of this information, interpret the information in terms of risks and benefits, and consequently choose whether to buy these products or not.

social-media-willyIn this study, we examined how social media mediated interaction with another person impacts risk perception and sense-making regarding eating organic food. Specifically, we investigated how risk perception and sense-making are influenced by the specific message frame, the identity of the conversation partner, the perceived similarity and expertise of this partner, and the initial attitude of individuals.

An online interaction experiment, including a simulated chat in which we manipulated the message frame (gains vs losses vs uncertainty) and the conversation partner (expert vs peer vs anonymous) was conducted using a representative sample of Dutch internet users (n=310). Results showed that chatting with partners who were perceived to be expert was associated with lower levels of risk perception, while chatting with partners who were perceived to be similar was associated with higher levels of information need, intention to take notice, and search for and share information. Results also showed that initial attitude had a strong effect.

The more positive consumers were about eating organic food, the lower their risk perception and the higher their need for information, intention to take notice of, search for and share information following the chat. Implications for authorities communicating on food (risks) are discussed.

Social media mediated interaction with peers, experts, and anonymous authors: Conservation partner and message framing effects on risk perception and sense-making of organic food

Food Quality and Preference, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2016.09.003

F Hilvera, M Kuttschreuter, E Giebels


Poor, poor pitiful me: ‘Social media is killing Chipotle’s recovery’

The Motley Fool writes that Chipotle Mexican Grill’s (NYSE:CMG) food safety crisis has been over for six months. But you wouldn’t know it from the company’s sales results. During the recently ended second quarter, Chipotle’s comparable restaurant sales plunged 23.6%.

chipotle_adThe company can probably blame social media for its slow recovery. The rapid spread of information — and in some cases, misinformation — via social media has made Chipotle’s late 2015 E. coli outbreak much worse for the company than it otherwise would have been.

Social media increased awareness of Chipotle’s food safety problems in the first place, and Chipotle’s food safety issues continued to be the butt of jokes on social media long after the initial outbreak.

In my case, Chipotle was the brunt of social media jokes and taunting going back to 2007.

The lesson for executives in the restaurant industry is clear: The right time to address food safety weaknesses is now. Waiting for food safety lapses to make customers sick is a recipe for disaster.

Linda Ronstadt’s version might be more popular, but the original, by songwriter Warren Zevon, is darker and more apt.

Except with the Springsteen bit. Never a fan.

ShitAcademicsSay: Behind a social-media experiment (and Amy’s book got a great review)

A review of my much smarter French professoring partner’s latest book,  Remembering French Algeria: Pieds-Noirs, Identity, and Exile begins with, “Amy Hubbell’s recent book is perhaps the most important work of literary criticism to date devoted to examining the veritable richness and inherent paradoxes of Pied-Noir literature in all of its extremely divergent forms. Hubbell seamlessly blends close textual readings of primary sources with the remembering.french.algeriainterdisciplinary theories of renowned researchers such as Cathy Caruth, Benjamin Stora, Jacques Mauger, Judith Butler, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Derrida, and Hélène Cixous whose ideas continue to shape the emerging field of trauma studies. The author adopts a very accessible yet rigorous, systematic approach to exploring the vast and ever-evolving body of literature written by the incredibly diverse group of exiled people commonly referred to as the “Pieds-Noirs.”

Our sibling cats are named Jacques (the white one) and Cixous (the black one).

So while basking in the moment and the years of effort that went into the book, I’ll pass on these words from Nathan C. Hall, an associate professor in the Learning Sciences program and director of the Achievement Motivation and Emotion research group at McGill University (Canada, represent) who wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education last year that:

“I am not an intellectual, leading expert, or public scholar. I am a rank-and-file academic with the job of balancing respectable research with acceptable teaching evaluations and sitting on enough committees to not be asked to sit on more committees (that’s the bit for Amy). And in my spare time, I run what is arguably one of the most influential academic accounts on social media: Shit Academics Say.

Since starting the account in September of 2013, it has grown to over 122,000 followers, gaining 250 to 300 new followers daily and ranking in the top 0.1 percent across social media influence metrics such as Klout, Kred, and Followerwonk. To unpack this a bit, tweets sent from my phone while recalibrating dopamine levels on the treadmill, or waiting outside my 3-year-old’s ballet class, are showing up in about 10 million Twitter streams and generating 200,000 to 300,000 profile visits a month, effectively making @AcademicsSay a bigger “social authority” on Twitter than nearly all colleges and academic publications. Not weird at all.

doug.cats.jun.14Although this might sound impressive, the popularity of the account is perhaps not surprising. First, academics use Twitter mainly for distraction, with tweets providing humorous details of academic content typically gaining the most exposure. Second, it is immediately apparent to new Twitter users that parody accounts like @kimkierkegaardashian, @NoToFeminism, or @SwiftOnSecurity tend to be more popular than traditional outlets — an observation that sparked an idea for how to personally connect with other academics in a not-boring way and on a scale large enough to have my procrastination count as research.

Like many academics, I have never been completely comfortable with the peculiarities, predilections, or pretentions of our profession, and have over time found myself both ashamed and amused while telling students to “please have a seat while I sit three feet away and finish this non-urgent email for the next five minutes”, or telling myself “I should be writing” when doing anything remotely enjoyable. And since starting this profession six years ago, I have also been regularly confused and frustrated by the cognitive dissonance I regularly encountered as part of trying to stay productive, employable, and, most important, fundable.

As a grad student, I had often heard that a retirement boom was coming, that course evaluations should not be believed until the third time around, and that all resubmitted manuscripts and grant applications are eventually accepted. However, I personally found these sentiments to be less than comforting after my own failed job applications (90-plus over two years), unsuccessful grant applications (15 since 2000), soul-crushing course evaluations (“He should have applied some of the motivational principles he teaches about to his own teaching.” — Winter 2015, paraphrased), and unjustified manuscript rejections (“I am a jealous and generally unhappy person.” — Reviewer 2, paraphrased).

And very much unlike a detached analysis of affect in which I was well-trained, I increasingly found myself dealing with unexpected combinations of emotion such as boredom/anger while grading, guilt/envy while reviewing a manuscript I should have written, or relief/shame after an internal grant deadline was extended. As an experienced overthinker, I was also able to convince myself that these wonderfully nuanced internal experiences were somehow unique to my beautiful mind. Whether it was self-disappointment over writing guilt on date night, resentment while teaching night classes instead of reading bedtime stories to my kids, or using humor to avoid feeling like a fraud while teaching content learned the day before or writing papers few would ever read, well-worn constructs like work-life balance and impostor syndrome didn’t seem to fit.

shit.academic.sayBut I shouldn’t complain. I get paid to think about thinking about thinking, and start my first sabbatical this summer to ostensibly gain a “fresh perspective on an old problem” (aka: binge-watching Entourage.

The rest of the story is great, but as she finishes her sabbatical, here are some other reviews she can take to performance evaluations:

“Hubbell’s Remembering French Algeria is an intriguing and important contribution to scholarship on the representation of Algeria in literature and film.”—D. L. Boudreau, Choice

“Perhaps the most important work of literary criticism to date devoted to examining the veritable richness and inherent paradoxes of Pied-Noir literature in all of its extremely divergent forms.”—Keith Moser, Contemporary French Civilization

“This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking study that contains remarkable insights. Remembering French Algeria makes an important contribution to current scholarship on postcolonial relations between France and Algeria and fills an important gap in that scholarship by focusing specifically on the oft-overlooked category of the community of Pieds-Noirs.”—Alison Rice, author of Time Signatures: Contextualizing Contemporary Francophone Autobiographical Writing from the Maghreb

We both have a hockey (ice) game to play in three hours.

Jason Bourne novelist tanks Chipotle stock with one tweet

Despite Chipotle Mexican Grill’s attempt to move on from a string of high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks, the company’s stock moves Thursday show how fragile its reputation is at the moment.

chipotle.tweets.jul.16The stock dipped as much as 3.4 percent in early morning trading following a tweet from Jason Bourne author Eric Van Lustbader that said his editor had been hospitalized after eating at a Chipotle in Manhattan.

We are aware of the post made on Twitter, however there have been no reports of illnesses at any of our New York restaurants,” Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle, told CNBC. “Moreover, we have excellent health department scores throughout the city, and we continue to have the highest standards of food safety in our restaurants.”

Chipotle seems to be suffering some Jason Bourne-like amnesia.

jason.bourneAfter Chipotle released the statement, shares began to reverse themselves and were recently trading down $7.88, or 1.9 percent, at $392.44.

“Every time that something like that comes out, yes, it will affect the stock because it potentially impacts … the recovery [in the] near term,” Nick Setyan, a Wedbush analyst, told CNBC. “There is such a lack of visibility right now that every little thing is going to change that variable.”

The illness Van Lustbader reported is unconfirmed at this time, however, other Twitter users have taken to the social media platform to share their experiences with New York Chipotle restaurants.

I’m going back to pajamas: Food safety risk communication


The European Food Safety Authority has provided two new tools to assist with risk communication during a food safety outbreak.

spock.logicThe U.S. International Food Information Council says that “pajama-clad bloggers” can “cry wolf on a global stage” and that “every food-related kerfuffle becomes an opportunity for tweeting, fact or fiction, which is actually believed and followed by millions, fueled in large part by the fallibility of social media users themselves and an inability to judge risks rationally.”

If only we were ore rational (which means, see the world as I see the world, believe what I believe).

I’ll stick with the Europeans on this one.

EFSA created the guidelines together with EU Member States based on best practices gained from previous food-related crises. Developed in cooperation with members of EFSA’s Advisory Forum Communications Working Group, this document will help ensure consistency and coherence when communicating in a crisis.

Best practice for crisis communicators: How to communicate during food or feed safety incidents also clearly explains the role and responsibilities of EFSA and Member State organisations during the various phases of a crisis to improve preparedness for any future outbreaks that may cross borders.

In November 2015, EFSA carried out a simulation exercise with representatives of EU Member States, the European Commission and the World Health Organization. Their feedback was incorporated into the final version of the guidelines.

Shira Tabachnikoff, an international cooperation adviser at EFSA, said: “Preparation and cooperation are key elements to successfully communicating during a crisis. The simulation exercise brought home the need for a strong network and clear processes. These guidelines will prove useful if and when they are needed.” 

The crisis communication guidelines include templates such as a practical checklist, a media inquiry log and a social media comments log.

Everyone’s got a camera: Indiana mold high-school edition

nobody's.faultNobody’s fault.

Or so they say.
HACCP is short for, CYA – cover your ass.

A photo of food served at Central High School circulating social media has at least one student thinking about bringing his lunch to school for a while.

The photo, posted on Facebook and Twitter Monday, shows a student pulling back the lid of an individually packaged cream cheese to find the top covered in thick, green mold.

Isaiah York, a senior at Central, said it was his friend who found the cheese at breakfast. They took it to the principal, who then talked to the cafeteria staff.

“I was a bit grossed out about it, it made me a bit uneasy,” York said Tuesday. “When we opened it, I was a bit in shock to be honest. … That’s my first time encountering that.”

Dianna Choate, director of food services at MCS, said her staff called the manufacturer as soon as they saw the package. The cheese arrived at the school in individual, sealed packages and was within the expiration date, she said.

She said they opened several other containers and didn’t find another molded one, but threw them all away as a precaution.

The district is in the process of outsourcing its cafeteria staff to a national food service company, Chartwells. MCS spokesperson Ana Pichardo confirmed “this has nothing to do with Chartwells.” The company is set to fully take over operations after spring break.

Jammie Bane, a Delaware County Health department administrator, said the situation was brought to the department’s attention and is being investigated. Although the investigation is ongoing, Bane said he personally felt that it was not the schools’ fault because the product came prepackaged from the manufacturer.

“I feel it’s a shame that MCS is being made out negatively for something that could occur anywhere, at any time, whether a school, business, or personal home,” Bane said via email. “An incident occurring does not point towards a trend, and does not point towards the schools not caring or not taking actions in an effort to ensure it doesn’t occur again. As a matter of fact, our local schools excel at food safety.”

This isn’t the first time pictures of inedible food at Muncie Community Schools have been on social media. During a school board meeting last month, when the board was considering hiring Chartwells, board member Kathy Carey said she was “appalled” at pictures of rotten food that had been shared with her on social media.

Texting to reduce foodborne illnesses in Evanston, Ill.

Two texts. That’s all it takes to avoid potential stomach pains in Evanston, Ill.

SMS_Health_ScoresOr at least, that was the goal behind an endeavor that pairs the city’s restaurant inspection scores on Yelp with text message alerts for diners. When the SMS program launched early in 2015 it was a quiet release. In fact, Erika Storlie, Evanston’s deputy manager, described the undertaking as more of a four-month side project than anything else.

The city had just completed a project with Yelp to feed restaurant inspection scores to the review site and wanted to investigate joining the scores with its 311 non-emergency texting app. The problem was, Evanston’s 311 app required a person on the other end to retrieve or record data and submit replies.

“So then, that began the exploration of, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be cool if we could text the restaurant name to 311 and automatically get the inspection score back?’” Storlie said. “It kind of came from the fact we were using these two different types of technologies and we wanted to marry them.”

Whether it’s Evanston’s Kafein coffee house on Chicago Avenue or the Peckish Pig on Howard Street, finding scores is simple. Diners just text “food” to the city’s 311 number, and after a prompt, enter a restaurant name and they’re returned the recent score and inspection date.

It’s simple and much easier than Yelp’s mobile app, which compels users to tap and swipe their way to a restaurant’s “More Info” tab and deep dive through a list of miscellaneous information.

Since Yelp and the texting services launched, Evanston officials said there’s an interest in tracking how public scoring influences health inspections.


Preaching to the converted: Knives, Listeria, and drug dogs, government social media

Emma Silvers of KQED Arts writes in this totally apt piece that one of the great paradoxes of the Internet Age: Social media has allowed for an unprecedented level of intimacy between friends separated by thousands of miles, between celebrities and their fans, between brands and their millennial consumers.

tsa.dog.nov.15It’s also total bullsh*t.

No one’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account is an even remotely accurate representation of their lives, because the overall point of social media is to craft likability; you post things you’ve determined other people might want to see. (Whether or not you are old enough to instinctively understand this surely influenced your level of surprise around this recent, viral “story” about a teenage Instagram model telling it like it is.)

There’s a veritable traffic jam of interesting case studies at this intersection of intimacy and bullsh*t. But today I’d like to pay homage to one in particular: The undercelebrated world of government social media accounts.

No, I’m not talking about President Obama getting a personal Facebook account. Of course Obama got Facebook. No one cares. I’m talking here about what the conversation must have sounded like in the office the day the USDA Food Safety program decided it needed a social media presence through which to share tips for proper poultry preparation.

A brief spin through this Twitter feed shows you the USDA Food Safety Social Media Person making very earnest work of what Social Media People are supposed to do: He or she jumps on trending topics, name-checks celebrities and the pop culture events du jour, and gets in line with holiday-themed and otherwise seasonally appropriate content.

Underlying the patently insane tone of most of these tweets is this blanket assumption that every business, every organization that wants to be successful absolutely must have social media accounts. That’s where the kids are, after all — might as well meet ’em where they live and teach ’em a thing or two about proper meat temperatures while you’re at it!

cross.contamination.usdaThe question of whether anyone has actually been saved from foodborne illness via tweet is, on the other hand, surely up for debate. Is a guy who doesn’t know to wash his hands after handling raw chicken really a guy who’s following USDA Food Safety on Twitter? Is an irony-appreciating millennial who might not otherwise be open to messaging about listeria going to sit up and pay attention because of the hashtag #Sharknado3?

The official Instagram account of the TSA, meanwhile, takes a more detached stance. This account delivers to its 374,000 loyal followers a mostly objective window into the assorted grab-bag of concealed knives, guns and narcotics the governmental body confiscates daily from travelers at airports all over the country.

Also, portraits of cute drug-sniffing TSA dogs.

Sometimes the photos are accompanied by tips and information about which items, exactly, are kosher to carry onto an aircraft (hint: no knives, guns, or narcotics), but mostly this account seems to operate from a place of gleeful voyeurism: Someone thought they were gonna get that onto a plane?

Connecting with customers is a key aim of social media, and these posts do that, to be sure — but the wrench in these interactions is that federal agencies don’t have customers. We’re not choosing the USDA Food Safety regulations over some other available option; we don’t compare prices and decide to get searched by the TSA, specifically, when we fly. So why do they care if we like them? 

Okay, so likability might be the wrong noun here — we could say their primary motive is to simply humanize an otherwise sterile, standardized and thoroughly regimented chunk of government, and to show that they are in fact performing a useful function; in the case of the TSA, especially, you’re talking about an organization with whom most of the American populace positively dreads interaction. Yes, they’re helping to keep us safe. They’re also basically the dentists of the government world — ones that can get you thrown in jail. (Related: The U.S. Border Patrol’s Twitter feed is similar, but methier.)

 So: Is it working? Unlike brand loyalty, which can be measured by what products we actually purchase following a social media interaction, there’s pretty much no way to track whether John Doe is feeling more warmly toward his TSA agent during a full-body search at SFO than he did prior to following the agency on Instagram. And, again, it’s not exactly going to affect the TSA’s bottom line.

thermometer,usda,nov,15What we’re left with, then, is a snapshot of a specific moment in our collective understanding of social media’s purpose as it evolves. Side by side with landmark social movements like Black Lives Matter — which arguably coalesced and gained steam predominantly in the online world, with an aim of affecting real change in the tangible one — we have brick-and-mortar agencies that perform self-evident functions feeling obvious pressure to contribute something, anything, to the jumble of self-promotion and online noise that is social media, regardless of the value. No matter if a Twitter feed makes sense for your organization: Does your organization even exist, if it doesn’t tweet? It’s a vignette that I think will become more telling with time, as the first generation that has never known a world without Twitter or Instagram comes of age, and as businesses (hopefully) learn to wield social media as a tool without embarrassing themselves(or us) anymore than they already have.

In the meantime, if they’re going to post it, we’re going to enjoy it. And hey: once we surgically remove our palms from our faces, we might even learn something.

And now, the U.S. government’s definition of social media (check your brain at the door):

This policy discusses the use of social media at the Food and Drug Administration regarding communicating to the general public via third-party platforms. It explains roles and responsibilities, requirements regarding establishing an account or a presence within social media as well as considerations to keep in mind when developing social media strategy and plans as a result of this policy.


Social media are web or mobile based third-party platforms that facilitate interaction and engagement among individuals in a network or virtual community. Social media offers a participatory environment and includes user-generated content such as videos, photos, videos, microblogs, blogs, and wikis.

Scope and Applicability

Federal agencies utilize social media platforms to engage with the public and to extend the reach of messages beyond traditional email notifications and websites. It is vital that a policy be created and implemented to ensure the Agency is appropriately represented in this space. The FDA encourages the use of social media technologies to enhance communication, collaboration, and information exchange in support of FDA’s mission to protect and promote public health. This policy applies to FDA employees, contractors, and other personnel acting in an official capacity when using social media to communicate with the public regarding FDA-related matters:

Using accounts that the FDA maintains on third-party platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) or,

In forums or blogs where FDA does not have an official presence (e.g. replying to comments in a blog post where FDA was a guest blogger)

(For discussion on the personal use of social media, please see “Personal Use of Social Media by FDA Employees and Contractors” on page 4). FDA-related matters are topics or issues that relate to (1) data or information only available to the social-media user through his or her employment at FDA, (2) products within FDA’s jurisdiction, (3) analyses of FDA programs, policies, regulations, actions or initiatives, or (4) positions or opinions that could reasonably be perceived to reflect FDA’s view on issues within its jurisdiction. This policy does not supersede or replace existing legal obligations in effect. Roles and Responsibilities The Office of External Affairs (OEA) Web and Digital Media Staff and Office of Information Management and Technology (OIMT) are jointly responsible for ensuring that the FDA’s use of social media complies with Federal laws, policies, and best practices. Office of External Affairs:

Develops the overall communications strategy and priorities for the Agency.

OEA Web & Digital Media Staff (OEA Web):

Develops policy and procedures for social media use in consultation with OIMT.

Develops the social media strategy for OEA.

Provides oversight for all social media activities in the Agency.

Reviews/authorizes all social media channel/account requests for the Agency. Authorization is based on the request meeting Federal/FDA requirements and providing a social media strategy and social media plan.

Reviews all Agency procurements and contracts, including Terms of Service (TOS) agreements, related to social media tools and services to ensure necessity and reduce duplication.

Coordinates and manages the Agency’s primary social media channels (currently Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter account @US_FDA, and Pinterest).

Leads the monthly meeting of the FDA Social Media Working Group.

Serves as the Agency liaison for social media to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Digital Communications Division and GSA Social Media Community of Practice.

Office of Information Management and Technology:

Applies the requirements of this policy in its functions of providing appropriate Agency-wide web technology services and security, including technical assistance, to program offices.


Prior to initiating social media accounts or procurement actions and contracts, Centers/Offices meet with OEA Web.

Develops the social media strategy for the Center/Office and ensures that it aligns with Agency priorities, their office or center communications strategy, and is coordinated with OEA Web. The strategy should include why social media is being used to meet the stated goals. The social media strategy must be submitted to OEA Web for review.

Develops social media plan in order to most effectively implement and manage the Center/Office’s social media presence including best practices, guidelines for consistency, how these mechanisms will support the goals outlined in the social media strategy.

The social media plan must be submitted to OEA Web for review.

Completes a privacy impact assessment and operates in compliance with HHS and the FDA’s social media policies.

Coordinates with and contributes content to OEA Web for posting on the FDA’s Agency-wide social media channels (Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, @US_FDA, Pinterest).

Assists with the dissemination of information on the FDA’s social media policies, guidelines, and best practices within the Center/Office.

Follows approved procedures for collecting and managing records associated with any social media accounts owned by the Center/Office.

Office of the Chief Counsel (OCC):

Provides legal advice relating to the web and social media.

Office of Operations, Division of Ethics and Integrity:

Oversees ethics requirements for FDA employees, including requirements pertaining to the use of social media.

Office of Information Management (OIM), Records Management Staff:

Oversees records management requirements for the FDA, including requirements pertaining to web records.

Personal Use of Social Media by FDA Employees and Contractors

FDA recognizes the right of employees to express their personal views via social media and encourages employees to use social media to share information that may benefit the public health, consistent with the following.

Principles, guidelines, and standards of conduct that apply to FDA employees in their official duties may apply to employee participation in social media, even in their personal capacity. For example, employees are bound by the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, the conflict of interest statutes, the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §§7321-7326,1 and the FDA Policy on Use of Government Electronic Equipment and Systems, FDA SMG 3140.1.2 Moreover, employees must understand that non-public information (e.g., personal privacy information, trade secrets, confidential commercial information, or information subject to government privilege) may not be conveyed via social media unless its release to the public is lawful and has been authorized by FDA management in accordance with the law.

To use social media in his or her personal capacity, an employee does not need to obtain permission or approval from supervisors or agency management and does not need to obtain outside activity ethics clearance pursuant to the HHS Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct at 5 CFR § 5501.106(d).

However, the ethical restrictions on receipt of compensation, disclosure of nonpublic information, and improper use of government title or official authority still apply to this activity.

And so it goes.