Social Media: Whether you’re addicted to it, don’t understand the point of it, or are just plain sick of it, there’s no denying it has become a powerful tool in today’s food industry. In some cases, it’s even changing the way food is being produced.
Case in point, Green America’s GMO Inside campaign brought it to the public’s attention last year that General Mills was offering non-GMO Cheerios to consumers in Europe and elsewhere but had failed in making the same product available to U.S. families. The GMO Inside campaign relied heavily on social media, Facebook specifically, to inform and involve consumers in demanding that General Mills phase out GM ingredients in its products. Shortly after being bombarded with over 50,000 online postings, the major food producer announced its plan to make original Cheerios GMO-free for the American public.
On the flip side, social media can also be used by the food industry to improve food safety. For example, last December, experts from the CDC, USDA, FDA, and the International Food Information Council Foundation conducted a special Holiday Food Safety Twitter Chat with tips/tweets for a safer holiday season. Besides educating consumers, there’s also the advantage of learning from your peers—LinkedIn has become a great professional gathering place for experts to discuss common industry issues and new methodologies to protect the food supply.
Undoubtedly there are plenty of companies still discounting the importance of social media. Therefore in this issue, we provide some background into what’s brewing between social media and food safety as well as guidance on how to incorporate a social media plan as part of an overall food defense strategy. From ConAgra Foods to Chobani, there are those who are already learning their lessons the hard way when it comes to the power of social media, so make sure your company knows how to wield this power properly.