The role of social media in communication about food risks: Views of journalists, food regulators and the food industry

Julie Henderson (Social Health Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)
Annabelle M. Wilson (Discipline of Public Health, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)
Trevor Webb (Behavioural and Regulatory Analysis Section, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Canberra, Australia)
Dean McCullum (Food and Controlled Drugs Branch, SA Health, Adelaide, Australia)
Samantha B. Meyer (School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada)
John Coveney (Discipline of Public Health, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)
Paul R. Ward (Discipline of Public Health, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Publication date: 6 March 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the views of journalists, food regulators and the food industry representatives on the impact of social media on communication about food risk. The authors identify how journalists/media actors use social media in identifying and creating news stories arguing that food regulators need to maintain a social media presence to ensure that accurate information about food safety is disseminated via social media.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected through 105 semi-structured interviews.

Findings

While food regulators and representatives of the food industry identify advantages of social media including two-way communication and speed of transmission of information, they maintain concerns about information provided via social media fearing the potential for loss of control of the information and sensationalism. There is evidence, however, that media actors use social media to identify food stories, to find sources, gauge public opinion and to provide a human interest angle.

Practical implications

While there are commonalities between the three groups, concerns with social media reflect professional roles. Food regulators need to be aware of how media actors use social media and maintain a social media presence. Further, they need to monitor other sources to maintain consumer trust.

Originality/value

This paper adds to public debate through comparing the perspectives of the three groups of respondents each that have their own agendas which impact how they interact with and use social media.

Keywords

Citation

Henderson, J., Wilson, A.M., Webb, T., McCullum, D., Meyer, S.B., Coveney, J. and Ward, P.R. (2017), "The role of social media in communication about food risks: Views of journalists, food regulators and the food industry", British Food Journal, Vol. 119 No. 3, pp. 453-467. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-07-2015-0272

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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