Speaker at The International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) 2015 Annual Meeting, Portland, OR
According to the 2014 IFIC Foundation Food & Health Survey, consumer confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply is on the decline from 78% at its peak in 2012 to now only 66%. Despite advances in food safety technologies and a seemingly more transparent food system, it is therefore intriguing to observe such a decline in consumer confidence. While we can’t isolate any one factor to account for this decline, a few observations are worth discussing. Over the past five years, an uptick in food misinformation disseminated by “food activists” such as Food Babe, Dr. Mercola, and Dr. Oz have not only been influential in rousing consumer outrage and advocacy, but have also impacted and influenced the food industry. Such influential so-called “experts” have adapted well by employing diverse methods of communication and media. Their language, tone, and delivery resonates with consumer audiences through personal salience and reaches concerned parents and foodies much more effectively than the multi-syllabic and technical jargon that most scientists use. This disconnect inevitably creates a broad chasm between scientific communication and public knowledge. The discourse has now spread into the diverse American culture in which scientists are finding similar difficulties communicating science and food safety to varying socio-ethnic-economic communities. Preconceived notions, prejudices, and lack of transparency leading to mistrust of both consumers and scientists continue to plague science communication. This proposed session is outlined to begin or continue the dialogue among food safety experts and professionals and identify a practical approach to reach consumers with science communications. The ultimate goal is to enhance attendee knowledge about public perceptions from producer to consumer; advance knowledge about today’s traditional and social media environments; and provide best practices for effectively reaching target audiences.