Challenge of correcting misinformation: Accepted.

I don’t always agree with AMI, but when I do – I agree with their stance to correct misinformation.

Besides my secret obsession with “the most interesting man” I totally thought of this quote when I read the Meat’s Case blog by Eric Mittenthal, The Challenge of Correcting Misinformation.

I’ve shared this frustration and challenge that the ag industry and producers themselves have – sharing information/ correcting misinformation/ educating the media how to communicate ag issues.

While this blog post stems from issues such as the lean finely textured beef (LFTB) issue the meat industry has faced this past year, it also talks about a new study that sheds some light on misinformation and its correction – which contains valuable lesson for anyone involved in communicating to combat misinformation. Here is information direct from the blog:

The study takes a deep dive into how misinformation is created and disseminated, how it often sticks in people’s minds and offers recommendations for debunking misinformation. One of the many examples it cites is the controversy around vaccines and autism. Despite the fact that the original studies suggesting a link between vaccines and autism have been retracted and unsubstantiated, there are still many people out there, including health professionals, who believe there is a connection between vaccines and autism. So why does misinformation stick, even when there is significant evidence to disprove it? Some reasons include:

  • People tend to believe things that are consistent with other things they believe to be true
  • Repetition creates a perceived social consensus
  • Single retractions don’t elicit changes

In the meat industry we’ve seen several examples of misinformation persist despite significant evidence to the contrary such as:

  • The aforementioned LFTB issue. This is a great example of repeated misinformation taking hold. Bombarded with messages about “pink slime” and an incorrect photo of the product, the notion that it is different than other ground beef took hold and remains today.
  • Nitrate/Nitrite and cancer. Despite the fact that the most significant source of nitrite in our diet is vegetables, there is a common perception that processed meat is the most common contributor and that this causes numerous negative health effects.  Even a multi-year National Toxicology Program study that involved feeding rodents nitrate and  nitrite in drinking water and concluded that nitrite was not a carcinogen seems insufficient to persuade some people of its safety.
  • Oversight at meat plants. There are many people who believe that meat plants are not regularly inspected. They hold this belief despite the fact that few industries in America are regulated and inspected as comprehensively as meat and poultry plants and U.S. meat packing plants where livestock are handled and processed are inspected continuously.

Read the entire blog here.

This information is timely and useful for me – and should be for all agvocates – to know how best to reach out to others either to educate or to correct misinformation. I accept this challenge, I’m thinking the most interesting man would, and I hope you do, too.

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