Food safety communication: reinventing the past, but with new tools

Twitter, online news and blogs are increasingly important communication channels when talking about food safety.


That’s the conclusion of a European Union funded project.

Based on three case studies, the researchers also found Twitter was primarily used during all recent food crises to inform readers of breaking news and to refer them to more detailed information – usually online news. Compared to traditional media, social media users respond very quickly to a food crisis; however, they also lose interest quicker.

The researchers also encourage communicators to monitor ‘what is being said’ and ‘who said it’. Monitoring provides insight into consumers’ perceptions of food issues and allows detection and tracking of impending issues and on-going debates. It also provides an opportunity to correct any misleading or incorrect information.

Risk communication 101.

Based on a web-based survey with more than 6,000 consumers from nine countries in Europe — Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK — consumers most likely learn about food issues from the television and in newspapers.

Why did an Internet-based survey conclude that people watch TV? Must be that multi-tasking thing.

I look forward to the results being published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The FoodRisC project concludes that the current popularity of social media has increased the potential of these channels for communicating about food issues, but more traditional means of communication still have an important role to play. To build a strong communication strategy, the FoodRisC project encourages communicators to look into consumer reactions in each specific case, and respond accordingly. FoodRisC created the online VIZZATA tool (, enabling communicators to explore consumer responses to new, conflicting or uncertain messages, to obtain insights and facilitate future communications.

On 12 September 2013, at the FoodRisC/European Food Safety Authority Conference ‘New Challenges when Communicating Food-Related Issues’, researchers presented key research outcomes, including the FoodRisC e-resource centre on food risk and benefit communication created by the FoodRisC project. FoodRisC was a three-and-a-half-year EU-funded project to assist communicators in effective dissemination about food issues, and thereby promote consumer understanding through clear messages.