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messages or training to inform and support food safety–related decisions and behaviors.

The Food Protection Plan (FPP) explicitly includes communication as one key step in responding to food safety problems, but it also mentions other FDA actions that entail communication (e.g., risk assessments for prevention, compliance guides, technical advice, training programs or materials for food safety workers and industry) (FDA, 2007). This responsibility is also implied in legislation that directs the FDA to enhance various specific communication functions.1,2 Accordingly, the agency’s website states that: “[t]he FDA is also responsible for helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health” (FDA, 2009a).

The FDA’s food risk communication activities range from issuing recalls and outbreak notifications, to sharing information about food defense with other countries, to providing guidance and training materials for food safety organizations and individuals. The FDA communicates risks both indirectly, by regulating the labeling and advertising of some products, and directly, by developing and sharing information with all parties in the food system. While the agency’s ultimate goal is to protect the public health, the specific objectives, audiences, and methods of its communications differ across tasks and contexts (FDA, 2009a). Communications during crises are a major FDA responsibility3; during a recall, for example, the agency is required to ensure efficient and effective communications, reaching people throughout the food system rapidly with actionable messages. In contrast, training and guidance about food safety involve long-term partnerships and collaborations with, for example, professional associations and educational institutions.

Dramatic changes in food production and distribution systems (see Chapter 2) and additional knowledge about the epidemiology and determinants of foodborne illness have resulted in a food safety enterprise that is increasingly complex. For example, worldwide feed production has nearly doubled since 1980—from 370 million tons in 1980 to 614 million tons in 2004 (IFIF, 2009), and the number of food facilities increased by 10 percent from 2003 to 2007 (GAO, 2008a). This complexity adds to the challenges of communicating food safety information to food suppliers, preparers, consumers, and other stakeholders. As populations grow, as food sources globalize, and as production increases in scale, the potential for rapidly


Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007, Public Law 110-85, 110th Cong. (September 27, 2007).


FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, 111th Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 510 IS. (March 3, 2009).


Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007, Public Law 110-85, 110th Cong. (September 27, 2007).

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