There are two interesting pieces of news from last week on the ways social media is being leveraged to share information about food safety concerns, as well as to predict outbreaks earlier.
On March 1, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) launched state-specific Twitter accounts to alert consumers to local recalls of meat, poultry and processed egg products.
“These new Twitter feeds provide yet another mechanism for us to provide consumers with critical updates and relevant information they need to protect their families from foodborne illness,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. “The immediacy of information-sharing through social media is unparalleled, and we believe these timely, targeted updates will better protect public health.”
The media is loving this story- even Mashable covered it– but how many people will actually follow these new Twitter handles? To date only 105 are following the New York handle; 307 the California handle; 41 the Arizona handle and so on and so forth.
FoodNavigator.com has an interesting story about how infodemiology, the analysis of information distributed on the internet, could be used to improve food safety. According to the article, Walmart vice president of food safety, Frank Yiannas’, recently spoke about the ways social media and internet searches are creating new opportunities to stop food borne illness outbreaks at the Global Food Safety Initiative Conference.
“But infodemiology, could also be used to track patterns in internet users searching for similar foodborne illness-related terms on search engines, or Twitter users discussing their symptoms via tweet. On of the most recent example of a live-tweeted outbreak involved student journalists in Canada who used Twitter in January to report a norovirus outbreak at a conference in British Columbia.”