Communication is essential to effective food protection policies: if healthy habits help reduce food-related diseases and disorders, communication can enable active and responsible consumers; but it might also lead to misinformation by promoting specific “food myths” and narratives. In fact, news on “poisonous” or “miraculous” foods fill up the daily agenda of the mass and new media, through which they become viral and more likely to affect people’s perceptions of edibility. While considerable efforts have improved food risk communication, no extensive research has addressed this increasing phenomenon: it is not sufficient to debunk food myths, but it is necessary to understand the textual and discursive strategies underlying them, as well as the effects of meaning deriving from such strategies.
The EU-funded project COMFECTION – “Communication for Food Protection” intends precisely to fill this gap by addressing some of the most urgent—but not adequately explored yet—issues concerning food protection and its communication: (i) the genetic modification of foods and the risks and benefits associated with their consumption; (ii) organic farming techniques and principles, as opposed to the use of synthetic pesticides, vaccines, hormones, etc.; (iii) the risks and benefits associated with the consumption of meat or the abstention from the use of animal products; (iv) the recent spread of grain free movements—from “gluten sensitivity” to the Paleo diet, etc.
The project has been implemented by means of a unique combination of theoretical and methodological approaches, and thanks to the collaboration of a well-experienced researcher, Simona Stano, and the support of two top-class academic institutions: New York University, United States, and the University of Turin, Italy. This will allow not only identifying effective tools for understanding and opposing food myths, but also defining creative solutions for promoting food protection through communication and, ultimately, helping the general public understand better some of the crucial issues currently involving contemporary societies.