Risk communication is an important part of food safety risk mitigation efforts at the consumer level. Risk communication allows food safety authorities to reach consumers, and to influence their shopping and kitchen practices. It is especially crucial as consumers represent the last link of the food safety chain and their activities cannot be regulated by law.

For authorities, risk communication is usually only one of many other tasks, such as supervision, control, inspection etc., so it can occur many times that risk communication is not among their strengths. Surveys conducted within the Policy Work Package (WP7) of SafeConsume showed that actors of the European risk communication scheme follow different approaches and are at different evolutionary stages regarding their practices towards consumers and their cooperation activities with other stakeholders. The easiest way of defining the path of development is to evaluate the currently used risk communication practices, determining the weaknesses and based on the assessment, the next steps.

One of SafeConsume’s goals is to help authorities to identify where the risk communication activities of their institution have to be improved. For this purpose, the Policy-team of SafeConsume plans to develop a Self-evaluation tool (SET), by which the users (especially leaders and risk communicators of national authorities) can explore their readiness level in different aspects of risk communication. The envisioned online tool reveals the risk communication gaps of the institution, visualizes the results and would be used as a decision support tool.

SET is basically a rating system, which gives a hint on the evaluated authority’s risk communication activities, capacities, and organisational management possibilities. When using SET, only short and easy questions have to be answered such as “Do you have an education programme?”, “Do you issue press releases?”, “Do you have social media activities?”. As a result, the authority gets the evaluation based on the reached rating.

The concept of the tool will be finalized next year, and its elements will be presented in the Risk Communication Guideline, and the Good Food Safety Risk Communication Framework developed by SafeConsume.