Best communications by public sector organisation 2014 Article icon

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Food Standards Agency

Agency: Kindred

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, and the number one priority for the Food Standards Agency. It causes severe pain, sickness, and diarrhoea but, in the worse cases, it can even kill. Most cases derive from raw poultry.

The FSA’s Food Safety Week campaign this year, which took place in June, was aimed at educating people of the risks of campylobacter, particularly those most at risk of severe symptoms, such as the over 60s and 25 to 44 year olds.

The FSA’s own research revealed that people are aware of the risks associated with undercooked chicken, but they were less clear of the dangers associated with cross-contamination of food. The research also exposed that most people ignore food safety advice, believing they’ve heard it all before.

However, few understood the risks associated with washing raw chicken – the water droplets can splash, leading to cross-contamination – and more than one third actually did rinse their poultry.

The counter-intuitive piece of advice Don’t wash raw chicken therefore became the central theme of Food Safety Week.

Working with its agency Kindred, the Food Standards Agency launched the campaign with a call to the public to stop washing raw chicken. This was accompanied by a series of real-life stories from people who had suffered from campylobacteriosis, which featured across the national media including Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast and the Daily Express.

Kindred encouraged 76 influential Twitter users, including all the major supermarkets, to share the message, resulting in a pre-launch Thunderclap, whereby they all tweeted simultaneously, that reached 1.27 million people.

In an attempt to offer practical advice, a Campylobacter Cookery School was held, allowing bloggers and journalists to watch demonstrations from food safety experts. More than 600 pieces of coverage appeared in the media, reaching 64 per cent of the adult population, and Don’t wash raw chicken was the most shared story on BBC Online on launch day. The campaign was also mentioned in excess of 10,600 times on Twitter, leading to a 1,553 per cent increase in visits to the FSA’s website compared to the previous week.

Post-campaign analysis also revealed that 43 per cent of adults recalled the campaign, and, of them, 54 per cent said they would be more careful preparing chicken in the future. ‘This campaign achieved tremendous coverage,’ said the judges. One added: ‘I remembered this – which must be good!’