Timely communication essential to combat misinformation

Aberdeen, Scotland – According to the Acting Director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Food Policy and Response, regulators must find a balance between speeding up communication during a crisis and getting the right message across.

Donald Prater told attendees of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) European Symposium in Aberdeen that communication must be timely in a crisis. It was part of a panel discussion on responding to safety crises.

“From a regulatory perspective, this is something we are not always good at, we wait until we reach a threshold where we have enough information to communicate. No. It’s also important to monitor the impact: Did the message get through? What did they do with the message? Did they change their behavior the way we expected them to?”

“People can change their behavior in ways that are detrimental to public health. There is, and we need to get it right and understand the implications, because the gap can be filled in that period, and if filled with information that contains harm, people can cause harm to themselves and those around them. there is.”

connect with the public
Traditionally, scientists’ roles have been in risk assessment or risk management, but risk communication is an area that needs more attention, Prater said.

“It’s not just a danger, we have to communicate exposure on the platforms that consumers are on. There’s always an opportunity to do better. Listen to what people are concerned about.” We need to lean in and tell about risk based on evidence,” he said.

“Horizon scanning is important. New places have new hazards and old hazards because there are so many innovations. Things that weren’t traditionally used in food are now in the food supply. Food Science The role of human beings is evolving, and how we craft our messages, listen to and think about human behavior will matter.”

The panel also included Purnendu Vasavada of the University of Wisconsin, River Falls and Francois Bourdichon of the University of Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy.

In recent years, consumers have increasingly faced the proliferation of food safety myths and conspiracies, especially on social media. Misinformation can spread rapidly online, leading to confusion, public health damage, and mistrust of science, government agencies, and businesses. False or distorted information can lead to minor food safety issues turning into major media crises and general concerns not getting enough attention.

Role of risk communication
In a presentation, Michelle Patel of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said trust can collapse during a crisis.

“The skills needed in the age of misinformation differ from the usual skills of risk assessors and risk managers. You must explain in simple terms what you are doing and try to understand other points of view even if you disagree. I don’t have an answer for that, but tell people you’re considering it,” she said.

Responding to food safety crises includes elements of risk communication and risk management. Scientists and food safety professionals play a key role in communicating science-based information, helping prevent the spread of myths and misinformation, panelists said.

Helen Taylor, technical director of the ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre, said small businesses may lack qualified and knowledgeable individuals and lack food scientists in their systems.

“We took information from regulators and made it realistic and relevant. Today’s youth have instant access to information and education. One size does not fit all. We work with them because they don’t,” she said.

“Understanding what the challenges are for corporate graduates can help them develop their knowledge. Having the right people in business can have a ripple effect of knowledge. , home economics is not included in the curriculum and interest in food science has declined over the years. Where will the next generation of food science professionals come from?

“We teach our students crisis management and run it as if it were an actual product recall. place. This will be observed and feedback will be provided to students.”

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