About the FoodRisC Project

As consumers, we receive a lot of information about food – what we should eat, what we should avoid, the benefits and risks associated with different foods and diets – A communication landscape that should help us to arrive at a nutritious and safe diet.

However, all these messages about food produce a network of paths that consumers find difficult to navigate easily. Amongst the legitimate information sources may hide some unjustified messages which can be further complicated by a food being associated with both benefits and risks. Risk and benefit messages can be difficult to decipher and cause confusion for consumers.

The aim of the FoodRisC (Food Risk Communication – perceptions and communication of food risk/benefits across Europe) project is to map out the networks and information sources contributing to food risk and benefit communication. This will result in a toolkit aimed at policy makers, food authorities and other stakeholders that will facilitate effective and coherent communication on food and thus promote consumer understanding through clear messages.

The recent history of food scares across Europe, including Salmonella in eggs, BSE in beef and dioxins in animal feed, has lowered consumer confidence in the food supply chain and regulatory agencies.

Despite various measures taken to reinforce consumer confidence, communication of food risks and benefits still remains challenging, with current public concerns related to amongst other things new food technology and diet-related diseases. Thus, the adoption of common approaches to risk/benefit communication and the use of coherent messages to prevent the spread of misleading messages is expected to lead to a reduction in the proportion of negative consumer reactions and unjust consequences for actors within the food supply chain.

To address these concerns the FoodRisC project funded under the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme, will provide new evidence in five areas:

  • The characterisation of food risk and benefit issues and the consequent communication implications
  • The potential role of new social media in communicating food risk/benefit
  • The way in which consumers respond to information they perceive as uncertain, contested or confusing and to develop relevant segmentation criteria
  • The applicability of the concept of information seeking to the design of food risk/benefit communications.
  • Developing practical ways in which consumer sense making and deliberation can be taken into account in order to provide substantive benefits to stakeholders in developing communications.

The outcomes from these five areas of investigation will result in FoodRisC developing a toolkit that through dissemination and training willd irectly improve current practice in food communication among national and international policy groups.

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