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By: Andrew Benson, Vice President, International Relations, IFIC Foundation  Date: 3/30/12

OK, so now I’ve got your attention! 

What’s the latest food scare that we all need to know about, the latest recall, the latest scary food science story everybody’s talking about? 

The truth is, it’s highly unlikely that any activity will be entirely “risk-free.”  So if you want to go looking for risks or perceived risks in food, or any other aspect of life for that matter, then you won’t have far to look.  To make matters worse, there can be a lack of information from trusted sources, conflicting and confusing opinions from others, “scaremongering” on the internet, hype and hyperbole in the media and in public debate.  

Well, when it comes to food, we have a right to expect a safe and wholesome food supply.   While risks in food growing, food production, food processing and preparation may exist, they should be appropriately assessed, effectively managed and, most importantly, effectively communicated so that food chain stakeholders and consumers can make informed choices about food and health.   

That’s the rationale that led to the founding of the International Center of Excellence in Food Risk Communication (http://www.foodriskcommunications.org on March 31, 2011).  Following a series of panel discussions on food safety, nutrition and health between leading international health officials and communicators, a decision was taken to jointly develop an internationally-accessible, expert global resource on food risk communication. 

Founding partners included Health Canada, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the International Food Information Council Foundation, the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the National Center for Food Protection and Defense and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  During the first year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Food Communication Compass Japan elected to join.  The Center was also listed as a contributing partner to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Food Safety Cooperation Forum, reaching the twenty one APEC participating “economies” or countries.  

The home page of the International Center http://www.foodriskcommunications.org contains a Current News and Hot Topics section where participants post the very latest information on late-breaking developments in food safety and health.  In addition, links are provided to each of the participating organizations’ websites.  The website also combines materials from all of the contributing organizations, grouped by topic, in two separate sections dedicated to consumers and health professionals. The website also contains links to important information from other leading international institutions, including the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

if you are a health professional and need to make a presentation to colleagues that stresses how you can work together to provide guidance on diet and health more effectively, check out Risk Communication Tools.  Or, if you are working in food safety and want to find a simple and memorable way to communicate more effectively, click on 10 Risk Communication Best Practices from the National Center for Food Protection and Defense.   

Concerned about healthy eating for you and your baby-to-be? Check out Health Canada’s Healthy Pregnancy, or the IFIC Foundation’s Healthy Eating During Pregnancy 

Need some help in finding and following a balanced diet?  Check out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

So far, the International Center has provided insight, expertise and resources on food risk communication to almost 4,000 international health professionals, stakeholders and consumers, in more than a hundred countries and on six continents. 

So Happy Birthday to the International Center!  My, how you’ve grown in just your first year.  May your global family increase and prosper, as you work to improve food safety and health, locally, regionally and globally!

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