Considerations on Next Steps for Strategic Risk Communications with Dairy Farmers

The findings of this research demonstrate that nearly all Dairy Farmers share a critically important common goal with FDA-sustaining trust and confidence in the quality and safety of America’s food system. The research indicates that a strong majority of Dairy Farmers are committed to their role in providing safe products from their operations. They understand the benefits and risks of using veterinary drugs in dairy cows, are familiar with key aspects of regulations pertaining to drug usage and withholding times, and are motivated to do what is necessary to achieve compliance. The clear prevalence of shared values and goals between FDA and Dairy Farmers on food safety suggests an opportunity for a collaboration-based risk communication strategy.

When the Decision Partners team presented the research to the CVM Team and interested colleagues in December 2011, they offered the numerous considerations. They suggested the CVM Team build on the results of this research by engaging dairy farmers, veterinarians, and other key industry stakeholders in a process to define guidance on best practices that are achievable on the farm and can be demonstrated to further reduce the possibility for unintended violation of drug residue standards for foods. This collaborative effort could build on the collaboration undertaken in the research phase of this initiative, namely, the engagement of expert stakeholders in the development of the expert model, and the outreach to dairy farmers through the process of conducting mental models research.

Drawing on strategic risk communications principles and practices the development of such guidance could:

  • • Demonstrate FDA’s commitment to working with dairy stakeholders to ensure safe levels of drug residues in animals intended for human consumption.
  • • Clarify and communicate FDA food safety goals and how the goals relate to the need for and scientific basis of drug residue standards in animals intended for human consumption.
  • • Enable participating stakeholders to come to a shared understanding of best management practices for avoiding drug residues at all stages of the meat production process.
  • • Enable investigation into possible on-site testing methods that would enable dairy farmers to test for residual drugs before they release cows for sale to traders and slaughterhouses.
  • • Assess possible on-site testing methods that would enable dairy farmers to test for residual drugs before they release cows for sale to traders and slaughterhouses.
  • • Identify and address risk in the farm to slaughterhouse chain of custody.
  • • Support the development of clear messages and materials, that once pretested with focal stakeholders, could be communicated broadly to the dairy industry through FDA, participating stakeholders, and their organizations, veterinarians, University Extension, industry associations, and a variety of other channels including FDA’s website.
  • • Support the development of other outreach initiatives, including training, which could be conducted by FDA, possibly with other stakeholders.
  • • Update the expert models to reflect decision making and behavior in a complex system.
  • • Revise strategy and communications content associated with violations.
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