Reasons for public involvement
Over the last decade, the communication of risks and benefits has undergone a significant change as a growing interest has emerged to involve the public in the decision making process.
The reasons for public involvement can be both ideological (ensuring transparency and democracy in the decision making process) as well as instrumental (increasing support for potentially unpopular decisions). Mechanisms for engaging the public can range from simple public opinion surveys or focus groups to more complex approaches that involve more participative and deliberative processes such as citizen juries or conferences.
Previous experiences have indicated that communicating risk and benefit information about food is a difficult task. Therefore, risk communicators should grasp the opportunities that are becoming available to them. Deliberation between authorities and the public has mostly been seen as a way to develop better informed authorities and provide contributions for policy development. Consumers on the other hand are also influenced by deliberative activity as participation in the communication process can support individuals to become more informed about an issue.
Public involvement and social media
The rapid growth of the internet has enabled the development of new mechanisms for new ways of consumer online deliberation. The development of the internet and the emergence of social media are increasingly recognised as an opportunity to involve and empower consumers in food risk and benefit communication process. Although these new technologies allow consumer to engage in deliberation without much effort (i.e; no attendance of focus groups or meetings is needed), social media has been mainly seen as an opportunity for communication and information transmission.
The official adoption of social media, their sponsorship and their careful management is not only an opportunity, but it also appears mandatory to avoid someone else playing the role of formal information source, providing ambiguous information to citizens.