EFSA asks: How should we communicate?

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European food safety authority, Efsa

The European Food Safety Authority has launched a public consultation into its new draft communications strategy, which would make dialogue a new key outcome and lay audiences a new target.

The EFSA revisited its communications strategy was in 2006. Since then, however, it has been asked to give many more, and more diverse scientific opinions, and advances in new areas – like animal cloning, nanotechnology, and health claims – have brought new dimensions.

In addition, visits to its website, subscribers to newsletters and media coverage all doubled between 2006 and 2009.

Following qualitative research carried out late last year by an external consultant and discussions with the board, the new draft strategy for 2010 to 2013 would bring more “simplicity and relevance”.

It also envisages adding ‘dialogue’ as a key outcome. This change that could be welcome to stakeholders in the food industry who have been critical of channels of communication in working out important new processes that EFSA oversees, such as the implementation of the new health claims regulation.

Moreover, EFSA is no longer planning to direct its messages just towards risk assessors, scientists and others with a professional interest in the food chain who would then diffuse information more widely through their own networks. It envisages expanding its target audience to lay audiences too.

An acceptable mission

EFSA’s mission in communications is “to provide appropriate, consistent, accurate and timely communication to all interested parties and stakeholders and to the public at large, based on the Authorities risk assessments and scientific expertise.”

The research concluded that this is still relevant. However it suggested tweaking its key outcomes to make them more relevant to the current environment.

The three key outcomes were previously visibility, simplicity, and coherence.

The four new outcomes are:

Simplicity and transparency: Increase relevance and understanding of EFSA communications, both for key target audiences and informed lay audiences, in co-operation with Member States;

Visibility and outreach: Enhance outreach, in the EU and beyond, by increasing awareness and recognition of EFSA and its work;

Coherence: Increasing coherence of risk communications across the EU and beyond;

Dialogue: Enhance dialogue with stakeholders and increase audience interactivity

We need to talk

The initiatives that fall under the new ‘dialogue’ plans would increase activities between EFSA and stakeholders, including specific themes and online consultations on scientific outputs.

It also sees a need to “enhance interactivity and dialogue with target audiences” ​to maximise accessibility and user-friendliness.

Consultation on EFSA’s new draft communications strategy, available online here, is open until 5 July 2010. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/comm100505-ax1.pdf

Related topics: Policy

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