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Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks
them into something that can be presented to and discussed with the communities. This communication process has enabled the scientific assessments to be merged into different communication practices that result in better public perception and understanding.
In the Inuit culture, each community has its own particular system of knowledge and way of understanding, and the NCP has adapted communication activities to these systems. Among the targeted and tailored communications activities are school curriculums for children, posters, little newsletters, and fact sheets. Radio, video shows, and a whole myriad of different technologies are used to communicate these messages.
Most of these communications relate to benefits—country foods are good for you and important for good nutrition. Little is said about contaminants because the community had established that people really do not care about bioaccumulation or PCBs. They want to know if their food is good to eat. The community has told the scientists that contaminant messages cannot just be “dumped” on communities. Information has to be put into a context of an overall health and nutrition message. The NCP is delivering these tailored health and nutrition messages, targeted to specific audiences such as youth and pregnant or nursing women through a community-based stakeholder program (Personal communication, E. Loring, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, August 3, 2006; http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ncp/).
In summary, guidance to consumers regarding the benefits and risks of seafood consumption may inform individual choices about which types of seafood and how much to consume. The design of guidance should consider the context of other product information, particularly labeling, available to consumers to facilitate choice. These other information sources affect choice as well as influence how effectively consumers can implement their decisions once they are made. This distinction is important. For example, labels provide information that consumers use to decide which products to buy just as consumer guidance does. But they also facilitate choices that have already been made. If, following guidance, consumers decide to add a particular type of seafood from a specific region to their diets, will they be able to effectively identify this product in a retail store? Do restaurant and fast-food outlet menus give sufficient information for consumers to implement their choices made on the basis of guidance?
IMPACT OF INFORMATION ON CONSUMER DECISION MAKING
Although it is difficult to attribute observed behavior changes to specific advice, like national and local fish advisories, awareness of advisories