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The 7 Cardinal Sins in Nutrition Communication

Rowe, Sylvia MA; Alexander, Nick BA

doi: 10.1097/NT.0b031e31823acfb4
Nutrition Communications Column

Much has been written about nutrition communication, how it should be framed, targeted, structured, and worded for greatest effect. Relatively little has been written about possible pitfalls—errors in communicating that may lead to public confusion instead of understanding. In this article, the authors lay out, in their usual irreverent style, what may be regarded as the 7 greatest errors in nutrition communication, focusing primarily on the last of these, mistiming messages—especially delivering messages too late for them to be effective. Pointing out a gap between expectations of and actual consumer behavior, the article discusses the importance of understanding consumer psychology and of effectively timing communications—both nutrition and food safety messages—so that information is delivered when consumers are ready to receive and use it.

The 7 deadly sins of communication revealed

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, District of Columbia. 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, District of Columbia. He holds a degree of bachelor of arts from Harvard University. A former network correspondent with ABC News, Mr Alexander has been, for the past decade, tracking and writing about science communications issues and the evolving challenge to public acceptance of credible science.

Disclosure: The authors state that they have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Correspondence: Sylvia Rowe, MA, 1100 Connecticut Ave, NW, #1000, Washington, DC 20036 (

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.