Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state

Posted on 05 July 2011

Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state

Tv9 - Journalist Dairy - Again 'Bandh' boiled stateBandh starts again, Agitations in city and people suffering from all strikes

ARE THE animals we eat fed too many antibiotics? Was social media as virulent as the pathogens themselves in escalating the recent E.coli outbreak?

Experts from all over Europe are gathering in Dublin this week to ruminate on such food safety questions and while there’s no telling if delegates will be lunching on cucumbers or bean sprouts, recent scares have provided them with plenty of food for thought.

“Killer cucumbers, those were the headlines,” says Prof Alan Reilly of Ireland’s Food Safety Authority of the recent E.coli outbreak.

Kelly’s address to the Society for Applied Microbiology conference is all about managing a food safety crisis when instant social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, make controlling the flow of information to the public a challenge.

Kelly says the effect of social media, where a story can spread like wildfire, becoming more exaggerated with the telling without any editorial control, can be damaging.

“If you get a message like that from a friend on Twitter or Facebook, you’re not going to buy cucumbers and you’re not going to eat them. That has the net effect of crippling an industry.”

So how do Europe’s national food bodies keep pace? “With extreme difficulty,” he admits.

“Not only is the food industry exposed to great risk from social media, but the food control services are also in a position where a journalist will have more up-to-date information than the food safety authorities.

“If we are trying to put out a public health message that a food is safe or don’t eat that food, sometimes it’s already out there before we can actually verify it.”

He cites the recent E.coli outbreak in Germany, which grew to be the largest food-borne illness incident in Europe, as a case in point.

“Look what happened to the Germans, they went out and said, ‘Yes, it was the Spanish cucumber’, when it wasn’t. If you do get it wrong, you are really in trouble,” he says.

So while social media might have taken its lead from Hamburg health officials, was Germany too quick to put the results of preliminary tests into the public domain?

Reilly’s advice is to proceed with caution when releasing information because the digital and traditional media have not been able to effectively reverse the damage to those products as swiftly as their reputation was decimated in the first instance.

With some 150,000 tons of Spanish fruit and vegetables piling up every week at the height of the scare and losses running at €200 million a week, it’s no wonder Spain is looking for compensation.

But the effects of social media in a food crisis aren’t all bad, according to Reilly. Many scientists shared information through social networks to great effect during the recent incident.

“It was the first time it happened that social media networks contributed to the identification of the genetic make-up of this organism,” he says. “So we knew it was a new strain, it had certain virulent characteristics and that was all done by scientists sharing information on social media. There was a Chinese laboratory leading it and everybody else was feeding into it, 24 hours a day.”

Journalist Dairy - Again Bandh boiled state

Journalist Dairy - Again Bandh boiled state

Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state

Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state

Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state

Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state
Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state
Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state
Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state
Journalist Dairy – Again Bandh boiled state

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