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Novel Strategies for Food Risk Communication

Novel Strategies for Food Risk Communication

The research, conducted by a team led by Dr. Mary McCarthy, UCC, and funded by safefood, provides evidence that while many consumers know the 'good' practices in food hygiene, every day practice varies considerably. 


Our every day decision-making behaviour relating to food choice is taken in the context of considerations of health, naturalness, economy, convenience and what we perceive as ‘risk’. Risk perception is now as important as any technical assessment of risk.

In order to communicate effectively with the consumer about food risks, the importance of the exchange of information and opinions among the interested parties is recognised (FAO/WHO, 1998). Risk communication is “not just a matter of ensuring that one’s messages are delivered and listened to… also very much a process of empowering individuals… to sharpen the skills necessary to make balanced judgements on risks”, (Scherer 1991).

This safefood review, conducted on an all-island of Ireland basis, provides valuable insights into the perception of food safety risk from consumers on the island of Ireland and the food safety expert viewpoint. It explores the barriers to communicating with consumers on the island of Ireland about food safety risk. It also studies the barriers to promoting and practising good food hygiene - subgroups within the population are identified as being at ‘high risk’ because of inadequate levels of knowledge or more frequently resulting from not believing that the investment of time and effort in good food safety practice is worthwhile.

Recommendations are proposed that involve a collaborative approach with the media and education sectors. The need to target food safety messages at specific audiences using particular media and employing appropriate styles is outlined. Novel communication strategies are developed and aimed at enhancing the food safety communication process on the island of Ireland.

This report is relevant to all stakeholders in communications about food safety, from the consumer, educationalists, health promoters and professionals involved in clinical practice to
media, marketing experts and agencies charged with providing consumer information on food safety.

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