Yesterday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Strategic Plan for Risk Communication to improve the way the agency informs the public of health risks.

The plan establishes a framework for communicating with the public about FDA-regulated products, which make up a quarter of the economy–including microwaves, lipstick, drugs, and medical devices, as well as 80 percent of the food supply.

“We are committed to improving communications the public receives about the products we regulate,” said Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Margaret Hamburg. 

The agency’s plan commits to accomplishing several specific actions on food safety over the next year, including creating a library of multimedia on safe food practices and posting pictures of FDA-regulated products affected by Class I or high-priority Class II recalls as part of recalls notices.

The plan also commits to creating and maintaining a useful and easily accessible internal database of FDA and other relevant risk communication research as well as to establish a data-based system for adjusting critical recall messaging to maximize effectiveness.

“The plan reflects the FDA’s belief that risk communication must be adapted to the needs of different audiences and should be evaluated to ensure effectiveness,” said the agency’s press release.

Expert food policy blogger Eddie Gehman Kohan, of Obamafoodorama, lauded the agency for taking action, and for considering non-english speakers and illiterate individuals by adopting the use of pictures in recall notices, but also admitted the plan indicated just how much progress is needed in agency communications.

“Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the new [commissioner], has a huge job, and while reading the new Strategic Plan is completely enervating because it reminds how far there is still to go…it’s also swell to see that things are happening,” said Kohan in a blog post.

In the details of the plan, it is clear the agency will have to build its own capacity to meet the benchmarks. 

Many of the goals require stepped up coordination within the agency, and with partner agencies, and the action items require researching, hiring, and streamlining agency procedures. The plan also aims to improve communication and partnership with non-governmental organizations.

Yesterday the agency also introduced a series of educational videos on topics ranging from recalls to reducing allergy risk yesterday to bolster communication with consumers.