The past several decades have seen profound changes in communication models, creating an imperative for openness, honesty, and transparency in order for nutrition communications to be an effective force to benefit public health. National surveys over this period have documented a more or less steady decline in consumers’ confidence in the communications of previously highly regarded institutions, such as Congress, business corporations, and the news media. The article examines the critical importance of trust in maintaining the credibility and authority of major institutions themselves and especially of their broad communications intended to benefit the public. The authors explore the implications of the erosion of trust for nutrition communicators, and they examine in some detail the communication factors that build or erode confidence in the evolving public conversation about food and nutrition. The article stresses the criticality of trust components in creating effective nutrition and food science communications.
Common sense and good advice about disagreeing without being disagreeable in settling nutrition disagreements
Sylvia Rowe, MA, is an adjunct professor at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is also the president of SR Strategy, a health, nutrition, food safety, and risk communications and issue management consultancy located at Washington, DC. Previously, Ms Rowe served as president and chief executive officer of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and IFIC Foundation, nonprofit organizations that communicate science-based information of food safety and nutrition issues to health professionals, journalists, government officials, educators, and consumers.
Nick Alexander, BA, is former senior media counselor for the IFIC Foundation, Washington, DC. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University. A former network correspondent with ABC News, he has been tracking and writing about science communications issues and the evolving challenge to public acceptance of credible science for the past decade.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Correspondence: Sylvia Rowe, MA, 1100 Connecticut Ave NW, #1000, Washington, DC 20036 (firstname.lastname@example.org).