Government as biosecurity Communicator: The 2006 spinach advisory

Caron Chess, Mary Anne Reilly, Cara Cuite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In 2006, after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) traced Escherichia coli O157:H7 cases to spinach, the FDA went beyond communicating with consumers and enlisted the cooperation of the food industry to prevent further spinach consumption. Understanding the factors that increased or frustrated industry participation provides lessons for communicating about accidental contamination and intentional attacks on the American food supply. This qualitative research about FDA's risk communication included interviews with senior representatives of organizations serving a range of roles in the food supply system, including suppliers, distributors, grocery stores, and trade associations. The interviews reveal that when public health concern is no longer warranted, agencies need to develop and disseminate "closure" messages to prevent unintended consequences, including economic impacts. The study also underscores the importance of trade associations and industry networks in protecting consumers, the usefulness of agency flexibility in increasing cooperation with stakeholders, and the need for greater communication among agencies. Outside the geographic epicenter of the contamination, New Jersey government also provided examples of innovative strategies to promote locally grown spinach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-152
Number of pages9
JournalBiosecurity and Bioterrorism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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