Survey: The Use of Social Media in Food Recalls

By Thomas Siebertz

One of the ways we help protect public health is through product recalls. Recalls can happen for a variety of reasons including mislabeling of product, biological/physical contamination or for quality issues. It’s extremely important for companies to have a strong traceability program in place so any affected product can be withdrawn from the marketplace as soon as possible.

USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service has three classes of recalls based on the relative health risk:

Class I – A health hazard situation in which there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death.

Class II – A potential health hazard situation in which there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from eating the food.

Class III – A situation in which eating the food will not cause adverse health consequences.

Traditional news outlets have always distributed recall information for food and other products. However, with the increase in popularity of social media, regulatory agencies and news media are using web-based social networks to reach more people in a shorter amount of time. Before Facebook and Twitter, you might not hear about a recall until the evening news or if you decided to visit the FDA website. Now it’s possible to get that information almost immediately. I think we are fortunate to have these high speed communication channels so consumers can be informed when products are being recalled.

One student at Arizona State University is looking at how information about recalls is being spread through social media. Chao-shih “Jake” Wang and his professor, David Van Fleet, are studying the FSIS recall system and have noted that the role of consumer feedback seems to be increasingly used. This led them to question how the word about a recall gets around after being released by the various regulatory agencies. In an effort to measure how this information is spread, they have created a short survey. Wang and his team would like your input about how you spread information about food recalls to your social groups.

Use this link to take the survey: and also let us know in the comments how you alert your family, friends, etc. about food recall information.

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