In the SafeConsume project, an entire working package (WP7) is dedicated to the development of efficient authority risk communication models, considering different arrangements of governmental authorities, different assignments of official tasks, and different levels of public participation in the Member States of the European Union and European Economic Space. To support the model, two research activities were conducted to get an extensive insight into the currently applied food safety risk communication models.

The first survey – conducted in 2019 ­­­­– aimed to map the functions, responsibilities, resources, cooperation networks and communication practices of food safety authorities.

The second survey was finished in 2020, and focused on the role of non-authority actors in food safety risk communication, investigating especially the effective co-operation practices between NGOs and official organizations.

NGOs at national and international levels were invited to participate in the online survey and to provide details on a range of topics associated with risk communication, including nature, frequency and efficiency of current communication with food safety authorities, the relative importance of different aspects of communication and potential areas for improvement. Extensive dissemination activities supported by EFSA and the project partners were carried out to ensure the promotion of the survey: as a result, 42 non-governmental organisations from 16 countries participated.

According to the NGOs’ risk communication practices, they use a versatile set of communication channels and tools, for which they need credible, comprehensible and timely information from official bodies. More than half of the participating organisations reported that risk communication - targeted at consumers - was one of their main responsibilities. Considering the NGOs which are involved in communication with consumers, more than three-quarters of the respondents had a dedicated risk communication unit. As for the communication practices between NGOs and authorities, the co-operation should be more effective. In summary, the best practice for exchange of information definitely involves direct channels, combining the opportunity to phone calls with contact persons, face-to-face meetings and email, but it depends on the topic also.

A network analysis was also carried out by connecting the authority and the NGO datasets based on the determined centrality of the NGOs, which pointed out the existing nodes in the institutions’ network. EFSA was in the centre of the identified authority-NGO system with the largest number of collaborators and widespread relations both with NGOs and national authorities in the fields of risk communication and risk assessment. The analysis of the two comprehensive survey results allowed us to see both the weaknesses and good examples of the currently applied risk communication models, helping the theorization of a new model. Based on these preliminary analyses and the synthesis of information about the risk communication practices in the food safety network, a novel structured multi-actor policy model will be constructed as an outcome of SafeConsume project.

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