Coronavirus communication and trust

The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has already had an enormous impact and will surely have profound consequences for many years to come.

The authors reflect on three risk communication themes related to the pandemic: trust, tradeoffs, and preparedness. Trust is critically important during such a rapidly evolving event characterized by scientific uncertainty. Reflections focus on uncertainty communication, transparency, and long-term implications for trust in government and science. On tradeoffs, the positive and unintended negative effects of three key risk communication messages are considered (1) stay at home, (2) some groups are at higher risk, and (3) daily infections and deaths.

The authors argue that greater attention to message ‘tradeoffs’ over ‘effectiveness’ and ‘evaluation’ over ‘intuition’ would help guide risk communicators under pressure. On preparedness, past infectious disease outbreak recommendations are examined. Although COVID-19 was inevitably ‘unexpected’, important preparedness actions were largely overlooked such as building key risk communication capacities.

COVID-19: Reflections on trust, tradeoffs, and preparedness, April 2020

Journal of Risk Research

Dominic HP Balog-Way and Katherine A McComas

When our eldest daughter was about six-weeks-old in 1987, my ex and I took her to a Grateful Dead concert at an outdoor amphitheater north of Toronto. We sat at the back. The dead did this Buddy Holly song as part of their encore and it was fabulous.

Surveys still suck: US consumers don’t trust industry food safety efforts

Why should they?

The food safety efforts are hidden behind layers of bafflegab that consumers don’t care about, with their crying kids at the grocery store, and their partners who don’t understand the stress they are under and all sorts of modern angst.

Tom Karst of The Packer writes that a new survey from food and marketing agency Charleston Orwig found that more than a quarter of consumers said they do not trust the vigilance of the food industry’s safety efforts.

In a blog post called “Food Safety in America – Time to Bolster Consumer Confidence,” the agency reported a survey of 500 consumers found:

When asked if they trusted the food industry for safe food, 48% said they do trust the food industry and 27% said they did not;

More than 77% of consumers say that cooking a meal in their own kitchens is the best way to ensure it is safe to eat; 

Restaurants were deemed the second safest, with more than 59% of consumers considering this to be a reliable option;

Just 29% of respondents consider food trucks or public vendors safe and almost 42% considering this option potentially unsafe; 

Asked to compare food safety now versus a decade ago, about 35% of consumer said food is safer and 32% said it was less safe;

The survey said 59% of consumers said they assume food from individual farmers, food manufacturers or restaurants is safe if they have not heard about a specific problem;

The survey said that having had a food-borne illness did not make a person think food was less safe than participants overall; 

49% of consumers said grains, beans and pasta are the safest foods, followed by fresh fruits and vegetables at 42%;

Leafy greens and lettuce were tied with processed food as the next category of highest concern with 45% of consumers rating them risky, according to the survey; and

55% say meat and poultry are the riskiest to eat; the blog post speculated the divide could be tied to people’s overall perception of what makes up a healthy diet.

I had David Bowie’s Modern Love linked to this post, but just couldn’t do it, because I don’t like David Bowie. Instead you get Pete.

Jumped the shark: Food safety culture

It’s a shame when one of your children jumps the shark.

Not my actual children, there are all unique and different, and I love their takes on life.

Ideas are not biological beings.

Food ​safety culture in a business is how everyone (owners, managers, employees) thinks and acts in their daily job to make sure that the food they make or serve is safe. It’s about having pride in producing safe food every time, recognising that a good quality product must be safe to eat. Food safety is your top priority.

A strong food safety cu​lture comes from people understanding the importance of making safe food and committing to doing whatever it takes, every time. It starts at the top but needs everyone’s support across the business.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) says it has developed some easy-to-use tools and resources to help businesses and regulators work together to improve food safety culture, through a 3-step process:

Step 1: Know where your business stands

Step 2: Do something to make a difference

Step 3: Follow through for a long-lasting impact

Food safety is not simple, and nothing is easy.

How does FSANZ know their tools are easy to use? Have they done surveys, personal interviews?


It’s one of those catch phrases which means, be suspicious.

I’ve always told my daughters, anyone who says trust me is untrustworthy.

Food safety is like anything else, especially hockey: put in the hours, get it right.

In brand we trust: How recalls at Trader Joe’s, Costco, can enhance customer engagement

Bryan Pearson writes in Business 2 Community that several major grocery retailers were recently given 358 ways to protect their consumers, and how they respond could determine whether shoppers will have a taste for them in the future.

trust.brandTrader Joe’s, Safeway and Costco are among the chains affected by a recall of 358 frozen food products under 42 fruit and vegetable brands. And while most headlines address the dangers of food contamination, the recall also serves as one more reminder of the highly effective role retailers and their loyalty programs could play in preventing illness.

Many people are alerted to these recalls through the news, but customer data can serve a more targeted and immediate function in notifying the public to and answering questions about such health scares.

The challenge is enabling the consumer to see that such notifications are an added benefit of loyalty program membership, not an intrusion. How to accomplish this? I can say that retailers that make customer trust a cornerstone of their strategic marketing have a superior edge, while those that do not risk getting lost in that trust shadow.

Following are four methods for responsibly alerting consumers to potential health scares, and in the process gaining trust.

  • Activate the database:Loyalty program data provides unique identifiers that enable retailers to determine which customers purchased certain items, including those on recall. Immediate notices can be sent to the loyalty members via their preferred methods of communication. Kroger Co., for example, has used its Plus rewards program data to aid in foodborne illness investigations and recalls.
  • Keep the database current:With that said, it is essential for retailers that use their loyalty data as a source of customer contact information to provide those customers good reason to keep their information current. If these names and addresses are wrong or out of date, then the retailer will be out of luck when it comes to tracking down affected individuals.
  • Reinforce trust:Regardless of how quickly they alert customers, retailers should be poised for questions about brand reliability. By offering a hotline through which questions can be answered, as well as the numbers of agencies that can provide information, the retailer can restore its foundation of customer trust. Practice sessions with customer-facing staff can ensure the company is prepared to answer questions quickly and consistently. It’s a good idea to assign a trusted team leader.
  • Get in front, but not affront:Outside of staff, all company communications should be direct, thorough and easy to access. Sending vague or hard-to-interpret messages will only dial up the concern, or panic (consider if the consumer is a new mother). In 2011, when Publix Super Markets recalled store-branded ice cream due to undeclared almond allergens, it added a red “Retail Alert” button to its website that directed visitors to a press release, product images and an explanation of the issue, with an apology (in English and Spanish).

Lastly, empathy will help guide the appropriate ways to respond to a recall. In the consumers‘ eyes, the retailer will be part of the circumstance, regardless of whether it is at fault. After-the-fact coupons won’t change that fact.

Got raw egg in those salad dressings? Panera’s head chef says go back to basics

Every time a rock and roll band I’ve previously liked but haven’t liked so much lately says, we’ve gone back to our roots, we’re back to basics with this new album, I know it will suck.

It’s like saying, trust me. If you have to say it, you you’re not trustworthy.

So when the head chef of Panera Bread Co. says they’ve started making their salad dressing in house because “we have a pantry of ingredients that are wholesome and clean,” I wonder, has this so-called chef ever heard of salmonella-in-pepper? Raw eggs? Is this another Chipotle waiting to happen?

Dan Kish, head chef and senior vice-president of food at St. Louis-based bakery-cafe company Panera, said it was a big deal when the 2,000-strong chain began serving salads with a green goddess dressing made in-house.

“Being a big company, you have someone else make your salad dressings for you because that’s what big companies do, and they do it really efficiently and the specs are right on, and, man, is it cheap. But two weeks ago, we started making our green goddess dressing in-house because I said, ‘If you can make a smoothie, you can make a dressing.’ It’s not as easy as it sounds, of course, but we have a pantry of ingredients that are wholesome and clean.”

Mr. Kish discussed Panera Bread’s disruptive strategies during a panel presentation at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, held May 21-24 in Chicago. About a year ago, the chain published its No No List of ingredients that will not be used to formulate its products, including colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners from artificial sources. The company committed to removing these ingredients from its menu items by the end of 2016.

Is Salmonella on your no-no list? How about E. coli? Norovirus?

“Our customers didn’t have a problem with our dressing,” he said. “They didn’t even have a problem with artificial preservatives, necessarily… but we think the future is in eating better, and if I had to hitch my wagon to anything, I would want to be making better food and not mediocre food. I would want to make it accessible because this notion of accessibility, affordability and convenience (in fast-food), none of that has changed.”

Though the decision to convert Panera’s entire menu to simple ingredients initially “dropped a lot of jaws inside the company,” he said, the initiative fit within the brand’s core values.

“We didn’t have to change who we are,” Mr. Kish said. “All we had to do was just think a little more deeply about what that means in today’s terms and for today’s customer and today’s economics, and the answer sort of popped up. So this notion of knowing who you are and staying true to that is really the key.”

Through the process, he added, Panera’s food safety standards have remained as stringent as ever. “Because, trust me, unsafe clean food can be a really bad thing for everyone.”

There’s that trust me thing.

To gain trust, put facts up front (but only comfortably facts)

If environmental groups can funnel millions into campaigns against genetically engineered foods, and develop databases on more than 80,000 items sold in groceries across the U.S. with details of ingredients and nutritional information, why is there no effort to provide microbial food safety information to consumers at retail – the bugs that sicken 48 million Americans each year?

imagesAccording to the N.Y. Times, analysis of food products aimed at educating (informing, please – dp) consumers about what they’re buying is increasingly common. Whole Foods, for instance, recently began rating some of the produce it sells as good, better or best based on a variety of criteria, and the Cornucopia Institute will soon introduce a yogurt scorecard, ranking a wide variety of yogurts based on whether, say, they use high-fructose corn syrup or carrageenans, among other things.

The yogurt analysis, which took more than a year, follows work the organization has done to rate organic eggs and organic milk, among other products and ingredients. “Yogurt is perceived and marketed as a healthy product, and its popularity has really taken off because of that perception,” said Mark Kastel, co-founder of Cornucopia. “But there are a lot of synthetic chemicals in many yogurts, and as much added sugar as some candy bars.”

I’d be more concerned about the mold (Chobani?)

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) responded by saying the methodology was void of the scientific rigor and objectivity that should be devoted to any effort to provide consumers with reliable nutrition and food safety information. 

But GMA isn’t about to start ranking foods by microbial safety – the stuff that makes people sick.

Retail Leader reports the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association recently launched a retail in-store program related to Facts Up Front, a voluntary initiative to display Nutrition Facts Panel information on the front of food packages. Facts Up Front labels display how many calories and how much saturated fat, sodium and sugar is in each serving. Some labels may also provide information about nutrients, such as fiber and calcium.

Nothing about the bugs that make people sick.

So while it’s nice that, as reported by The Packer, that the Safe Quality Food Institute has given Taylor Farms its Primary Producer of the Year award, no one who shops at retail would know about it.

Jason Kawata, director of quality assurance, using PR-approved flunky words, said, “There is no higher priority for Taylor Farms than food safety. We are committed to the highest levels of food safety day in and day out, and it’s an honor to be recognized for those efforts.”

In addition to adhering to Safe Quality Food Institute certification standards, Taylor Farms implements its SmartWash Solutions food safety and process control system in all facilities. Products are subject to a multi-stage wash with SmartWash, a safeguard against bacterial cross contamination.

Sounds great.

But how would anyone shopping for themselves or their families know?

Risk, communication and trust: Towards an emotional understanding of trust

Current discussions on public trust, as well as on risk communication, have a restricted rationalistic bias in which the cognitive-reflexive aspect of trust is emphasized at the expense of its emotional aspect.

communication.context.13This article contributes to a substantive theory of trust by exploring its emotional character. Drawing on recent discussions in science and technology studies, social psychology, and general social theory, it argues that trust is a modality of action that is relational, emotional, asymmetrical, and anticipatory. Hence, trust does not develop through information and the uptake of knowledge but through emotional involvement and sense-making. The implications of this conception of trust for public understandings of science and for risk communication are discussed.

Public Understanding of Science

Emma Engdahl and Rolf Lidskog

Know thy supplier: horse, pig meat found in Irish beef burgers

My mother informed those gathered last month that, as a child, I would barf in the car going to get groceries.

mr-edIt’s true, I can’t tolerate the motion.

We went out on a boat in Florida, and I yakked.

So does Chapman.

But I did manage to drive about half of the 48 hour trek from Kansas to Florida and back and would sometimes stop at a burger joint. Then that craving goes away, for longer and longer periods of time.

So what’s a little horse mixed in?

It has to do with faith-based food safety, reputation, and that purveyors say one thing but may be doing another.

And that makes lots of people want to barf.

The Independent reported last week the horsemeat-in-beef-burgers scandal is now a fully fledged economic crisis for Ireland’s multi-billion agribusiness – a beacon of light during the recession – and the country’s reputation as an international food producer may be damaged beyond repair.

It is now a runaway train that could yet derail the lucrative export market for Irish processed meat products and cost the economy millions of euro. The damage included immense reputational harm to not just Irish meat processors found to have produced burgers with horse.meat.09equine DNA but the overall food industry here. In all, 27 beef burger products were analyzed, with 10 of the 27 products (37 per cent) testing positive for horse DNA and 23 (85 per cent) testing positive for pig DNA.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) had last week revealed that up to 29 per cent of the meat content of some beefburgers was in fact horse, while they also found pig DNA.

In addition, 31 beef meal products – shopping-trolley staples such as cottage pie, beef curry pie and lasagne – were also analysed. Of these other beef products, 21 were positive for pig DNA but all were negative for horse DNA.

All 19 salami products analysed tested negative for horse DNA.

But traces of horse DNA were detected also in batches of raw ingredients, including some imported from the Netherlands and Spain which are used in the production of burgers.

Reputational damage to major international companies will also cost Ireland dear in lost business – even though it now appears likely that the source of the contamination was a bought-in additive from either the Netherlands or Spain, though the Spanish have denied involvement.

Tesco – where one of its Irish produced “Value Range” burgers had 29 per cent horsemeat – lost €300m of its market value in one day. Burger King was revealed as using one of the Irish suppliers at the centre of the storm. It has now ditched all Silvercrest beef products in Britain and Ireland.

Cooking tools, pans, sinks and dishcloths used in kitchens where the meat was handled must also be sanitised or disposed of.

According to a January 20 memo, employees at restaurants in the UK were told to continue serving the suspected meat until they received replacement product from a different supplier – and make no mention of the withdrawal to customers.

“If our guests inquire regarding our beef products, the team member should immediately inform the restaurant manager,” wrote Tracy Gehlan, the vice president of brand standards and excellence for stores in northwestern Europe, wrote in the memo.

“The manager should inform the guest that Burger King ‘has taken all necessary precautions to ensure that our guests are receiving the quality products that Burger King is known for’.”


The frozen burgers were on sale in high-street supermarket chains chapman.vomitTesco and Iceland in both Britain and Ireland, and in Irish branches of Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes Stores. Tesco is Britain’s biggest retailer.

In related horse meat news, FSA has admitted five horses which tested positive for a drug harmful to humans were exported to France for food.


Earlier, shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said “several” UK-slaughtered horses with phenylbutazone, or bute, may have been sold for food.

The FSA said it identified eight cases of bute-positive horsemeat in 2012, none of which was for the UK market.

The drug is banned from being consumed by humans within the EU.

It’s all about the trust: Minnesota waterpark aims to rebuild public trust after crypto outbreak

The Edgewater Hotel in Duluth, Minn., a popular spot for Thunder Bay travelers, lost a quarter of its business after water park visitors fell ill in March.

CBC News reports the outbreak was linked to cryptosporidium, a parasite that can be passed by humans.

The hotel’s general manager, Jesse Hinkemeyer, said rebuilding public trust is a priority.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Hinkmeyer said.

“It’s a trust issue and that’s why we have been so forthcoming. And we want to be as transparent as we can.”

Hinkemeyer said the hotel is now installing an ultraviolet treatment system for the water park. It’s supposed to be 99.9 per cent effective against the parasite. When water is filtered through the UV system, it renders any harmful substances harmless. Hinkemeyer noted that cryptosporidium can’t be eliminated 100 per cent.

Trisha Robinson, an epidemiologist with the state of Minnesota, said “crypto outbreaks are fairly common. Minnesota health officials say there [is] an average of 250 to 300 cases a year. [But] the vast majority are not affected by an outbreak."

As for the outbreak of cryptosporidiosis associated with a waterpark in Duluth, she said they have a case count of 97 people who became ill — including 22 who have had a laboratory-confirmed case of cryptosporidium. The individuals who became sick resided in Ontario, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Epidemiology links to Panera in Jersey norovirus outbreak; spokesperson highlights that staff weren’t ill

Food safety is about trust. Good processing, retail and food service companies choose suppliers that they trust – and sometimes that includes demonstrating they can manage risks during some sort of an audit or inspection.
Patrons choose food based on a whole bunch of things like price, taste, ethical philosophy and trust that they aren’t going to get sick — with not all that much safety information to go on.

In most jurisdictions, selling food means meeting some sort of licensing/inspection requirement. In better locales health authorities tell people about how individuals managed food safety the last time someone checked – and post the results online or in the window (even better if they have QR codes). I had coffee with a colleague last week and he asked me about North Carolina’s grade posting system. I said I liked the dialogue and interest it generates but that it’s hard to make a decision based on the sign – there are lots of limitations. I can’t tell whether the business lost points because of a bunch of little things like broken tiles or no hot water in the handwashing sinks (that I don’t really care about) or whether someone showed up to work barfing (which I do care about).

He just said, "I don’t eat at Jersey Mike’s because of the grade posting. They had a 94 (relatively low in NC -ben) for a couple of months."

Having poor inspection results can affect patrons’ trust – so can outbreaks.

In Jersey, land of Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Snooki and Jwow and Princeton, NJ health folks have pointed to a Mercer County Panera Bread outlet as one of the potential spots where a January 2012 norovirus outbreak was spread. According to Samantha Costa of The Times, Panera was reported as a common spot that a bunch of the ill college kids ate.

During the peak of the norovirus outbreak at colleges here this winter, as many as 150 Princeton University students could have been exposed to the illness at a local eatery, public health officials said this week.The virus that sickened more than 400 students at colleges and universities throughout Mercer County may have been spread through many venues, but health officials in Princeton suspect many Princeton University cases originated at Panera Bread on Nassau Street. In late January, the health department removed five workers in the restaurant from food handling after discovering that many students with the illness had eaten there.

“There might have been upwards of 150 different students, and there was no realistic way to get a total number of food histories on those students,” Princeton Regional Health Department Director David Henry said. All of those students had eaten at Panera, but there were many other potential sources of the virus that also may have been involved, health officials said.

Jackie Brenne, a spokeswoman for Panera, said that despite the precautions, “no Panera associates were found to be ill. Panera managers did review safety and illness policies with all cafe associates.”The health department report said inspector Randy Carter spent about an hour at Panera Bread, tracking down the food histories of where students ate and listed common foods they ate at Panera Bread to rule out salmonella (not sure why Salmonella was focused on here? -ben).

However, the students’ eating habits pointed to many retail food establishments, the report said.“In those particular cases, we can’t label or narrow it down to one or two food establishments. It was a community outbreak and Panera and some of the other places just ended up being victims of the norovirus,” Henry said. “We don’t know the one place. All we know is when we have a situation we have to contain it.”Nassau Street is frequented by many Princeton University and Rider University students alike, the department said. Rider’s Westminster Choir College campus is in Princeton.