Risk Communication and What it Means for Food Safety WorkersJanuary 14, 2020
The food industry and Canada’s food safety regulators are responsible for making sure food is safe. However, approximately 4 million illnesses occur each year from food-borne pathogens in Canada. One reporter also noted that many food-borne illnesses go unreported, suggesting that a higher estimate could be made.
A study was released by the University of Guelph in 2019 and its researchers think one way to reduce these illnesses is through cookbooks. Why? They say cookbooks could be a form of risk communication for consumers if authors worked with food safety professionals. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen, but for now, we can take a look at what risk communication currently means for food safety workers.
What Is Risk Communication?
For those who want to learn about food quality control, risk communication involves information sharing between and among government agencies, food industry stakeholders, and the public. The protocols that make sure manufacturers and food researchers communicate properly about food safety issues are regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Risk communication includes the following activities and more:
- Issuing recalls and outbreak notifications
- Providing guidelines, regulations, and training materials for food safety
- Regulating labels and advertising for food products
- Sharing information between countries
One example of high profile risk communication happened in May of 2019, when there was a salmonella outbreak that involved frozen raw breaded chicken products. This was announced by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Why Is Risk Communication Imperative for a Food Safety Worker?
Of course, public safety is one of the main drivers of risk communication. However, behind the scenes, risk communication also plays a vital role in food product development, manufacturing, and risk assessment. Here are some of the questions that risk communication attempts to address for food safety professionals:
- How was a decision about risk management made?
- What strategy will be used to manage food safety risks of a certain product?
- What will be the impact of a food company’s decisions for a certain product?
When you do training to become a food safety worker, an integrated and hands-on approach will give you the specialized knowledge to approach some of these issues and ensure risk assessments prevent high profile recall situations.
How Risk Communication May Apply to Food Safety Training
In some ways, food safety training is all the different ways to assess and reducing risk. Sharing information is integral to effective food safety practices. Some specific examples of topics relevant to risk communication that food technology training covers are the following:
- Research on food development
- How to communicate results of research projects
- Biological, chemical ,and physical hazards in food processing
- GMPs and HACCP
As you can see from this small sample, training provides a well rounded and thorough approach to food safety that will support participation in risk communication activities in meaningful ways. Whether your career involves food producers, manufacturers, or cookbook authors, your education will give you the tools to promote effective risk communication.
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