Drama or Crisis?

by Jack Ward

I spent an interesting day at a conference earlier this week looking at the integrity of the UK’s food supply. The most interesting element was on food scares and how industry can reduce the frequency and severity of a potential scare. First question - how do food incidents become food scares. Sadly not always much science or rational thinking applied here when it comes to turning an incident into a scare. It’s often difficult to predict what public reaction will be to a given set of circumstances where food is concerned. Perceived problems can be just as influential in swaying public opinion as real problems and with access to social media, the capacity for rumour and misinformation to spread in an uncontrolled way is a real cause for concern.

So what were the conclusions? Have a plan in place. Who is affected? What is the perceived or real problem and who is the public likely to trust in these situations? Inevitably time is of the essence but any response needs to be considered and accurate in terms of message and content.
The key messages around limiting the potential for damage from a food incident - 1)planning, preparation and training; 2) act fast but balance speed with accuracy and 3) be clear on the allocation of roles and authority – who is required to do what and with what level of authority.