The evolution of modern-era food safety risk communication of authorities was divided into five main stages by the researchers of SafeConsume based on the aspects of the challenges, the level of consumer involvement, and the methodological approach. The expected future trends were considered as the sixth step.

Eras of food safety risk communication

In the Pre-risk communication era (before the 1980s), the public was ignored during the process of risk management as long as the risk could be maintained at a tolerable level. Preventive risk communication basically did not exist until the development of the so-called Deficit model. It was used for the first time in the 80s as an attempt to narrow the gap between citizens' and experts' knowledge.

“The failure of the Deficit model facilitated the recognition that public risk perception must be a key factor that should be explored and analysed, in order to understand public attitudes towards different risk-related topics.”

In the next step, the Dialogue model tried to solve the problem of public mistrust in the scientific community. Even though this model focused more on the chosen communication techniques, the efficiency of information dissemination has not resulted in a genuine dialogue between risk managers and the public. From the late 1990s to the 2010s, the more advanced Partnership model emphasised the importance of institutionalised risk communication; however, it was not taking into account the limitations and conditions of the human learning process. The Behavioural insight model, appearing a decade ago, in comparison to the others, paid more attention to human behaviour, which is influenced by human nature and social environment.

What to expect in the future

Talking about the future, moving towards the Controlled risk environment model, “traditional risk communication is expected to be replaced by personalised services, for the most part, placing the consumer in a controlled risk environment.” Despite that, previous models will remain in use in some situations, as they have already proven effective enough in particular cases. Due to the technological improvements, food safety control authorities will likely keep the role of supervising the food chain safety system to monitor business activities and ensure compliance with legal and ethical boundaries, and besides legislative aspects, “they will also take part in scientific research and development for optimising new technologies”.

The whole study on the risk communication models is available here: