Food safety, both at home and at large, is an increasingly complex enterprise. These dynamic and multifaceted systems necessitate increased transparency in communicating food safety information to all parties from farm to fork.
As food sources globalize and productions increase in scale, the potential for foodborne illnesses and the need for effective risk and crisis communication grows with it.Food producers, processors, and retailers play a critical part in preventing foodborne illness. As such, your facility requires tailored education and training – a vital component of a preventive, risk-based food safety system. Several facilities tend to lump risk assessment and communication practices together, but this is a mistake. Improved and effective risk communication requires treatment as a distinct and vital concept. The benefits of such practice include reduced food safety crises as well as an immovable sense of brand trust and credibility should a foodborne illness outbreak occur.
This blog discusses what you should keep in mind when seeking to improve your risk communication with a lens on your audience – industry peers and consumers alike.
Risk communication efforts flounder without public trust. When risk management happens behind closed doors, this trust suffers. Risk communication follows suit.
Organizations communicating risk to both their employees and the public should have an “open door” policy. This ensures dialogue is clear and effective. How can you do this? First, don’t limit yourself, your employees, or your consumers to pre-canned technical conversation. Second, communicate early and often with any media involved.
Consider the Audience
If your business communicates risk to consumers, stakeholders, and so on, it's important to carefully consider your target audience. Who are they and what do they consider newsworthy? How do they consume their news? Which type of media resonates most with your audience? Your choice of message and media will impact audiences differently. If you're looking for a place to start, review and analyze any applicable past communications.
In the event of a food recall, the FDA states consumers must be made to understand:
Messages must be delivered quickly with clear criteria for identifying a recalled product and the symptoms caused by consumption of the product. Often, food processors or other organizations reporting a recall fail to insight action in consumers. Be sure to provide motivational information on the appropriate course of action without frightening consumers.
Risk communication is a vital part of food safety risk management. Treating it as such helps your brand and consumers in case of a foodborne illness outbreak. By being open, understanding who you’re communicating to and how to best do so, as well as using modern tools like social media, you can create risk communication plan that weathers the storm.
To learn more about risk communication, assessment, and food safety, consider our Risk Communication online course.