Food Safety
TECH FLASH

Improving social media’s role in food safety

North Carolina State University researchers have developed guidelines for using social media to communicate effectively in the interest of public health

August 25, 2014
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+

Improving social mediaâ??s role in food safetyIn the interest of public health, researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a set of guidelines for using social media to communicate about food safety.

“In a crisis context, the framework can be used by health officials, businesses or trade organizations to help them reach key audiences with information that can be used to reduce the risk of foodborne illness,” says Ben Chapman, an associate professor at the university whose research focuses on food safety.

Chapman is the lead author of a paper on social media’s interaction with food safety.

“The literature shows us that simply pushing out information isn’t an effective way to change people’s behavior,” Chapman says. “You need to engage in dialogue, and Twitter and Facebook are excellent places to have those conversations.”

For example, Chapman says food safety experts can use Twitter to search for—and participate in—conversations people are already having about foodborne illness.

In recent years, applications like Facebook and Twitter have increased user engagement and essentially become the new way people access information, find news and report what they know.

Social media relies on high levels of interaction and user-generated context shared through established and evolving social networks.

Consequently, to be successful, health information providers must know how to participate in social media to meet the needs of these online audiences. Once this is accomplished, the providers will be able to discuss and explain issues related to food safety and ways to reduce health risks.

The university researchers established a set of best practices for social media by studying papers on food safety risk communication and social media communication. Currently, the research team is working on three projects to examine food safety communication on YouTube and among bloggers, as well as using social media to identify and respond to outbreaks.

“Social media may be the catchphrase today, and maybe it will be big data tomorrow, but the underlying goal is fewer sick people,” says powellfoodsafety.com’s Douglas Powell, a co-author of the paper. “Twitter wasn’t around 10 years ago, but people still got sick. As they arrive, we need to adapt new tools to the food safety sphere.”

The paper, “Potential of social media as a tool to combat foodborne illness,” appears in Perspectives in Public Health. It was co-authored by Benjamin Raymond, a graduate student at NC State. The research was funded by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“I get questions about social media and food safety all the time, so there’s a clear demand for this sort of guidance,” Chapman says. “But this is a basic framework. The guidance will continue to evolve over time, just as the field of social media itself is constantly evolving.”

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

Recent Articles by Jeremy Gerrard

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

Plant of the Year 2014

Blue Diamond Growers was chosen as Food Engineering's 2014 Plant of the Year. The Sacramento-based company is the world’s largest producer of almonds and almond ingredients.

Podcasts

Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

Food Engineering

FE October 2014 Cover

2014 October

The October 2014 issue of Food Engineering explores companies that have successfully grappled with "the new business reality" and are coming to terms with it being here to stay. Also, read about the work going on behind the scenes to keep FSMA on track.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

FSMA Audit

What is the is most important step you have taken to become ready for a FSMA audit?
View Results Poll Archive

THE FOOD ENGINEERING STORE

Food-Authentication-Flyer-(.gif
Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

STAY CONNECTED

FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.png linkedin_40px.pngGoogle +

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit www.foodmaster.com to learn more.