During this year’s national IFT, I had the privilege of speaking on “The Changing Nature and Roles of Trade Media in the R&D and Marketing Loop.” In the presentation, I listed the increasingly diverse and time-demanding tasks of today’s editors, which can include database mining; website analytics; digital content formatting; social media participation; and, last but not least, content sourcing.

This gave rise to a thoughtful question by one audience member, who pointed out the Internet has a plethora of food websites, and this information varies greatly, in terms of quality and reliability. He asked, “How is someone to know if a website’s information is accurate or biased?” This is a great question.

The accuracy of websites for healthcare information, for example, has been much studied. For instance, one paper (Adam SA, 2010. Int J Med Inform. 79(6):391-400) advanced the discussion to Web 2.0 applications, where consumers interact with information sources, such as social media sites. The paper suggested both opportunities and caution in use of the Internet. Hopefully, consumers perform better due diligence than reported in a 2002 British Medical Journal article (http://tinyurl.com/62htj4), where those studied found answers to health questions online in less than six minutes on average; explored only the first few links from general search engines results; and, although they said they assessed information credibility, they did not check the “about us” website section, nor try to find out who its authors or owners were; nor did they read disclaimers or disclosure statements. In evaluating information, the National Library of Medicine in the U.S. advises consumers to “look for an ‘about us’ page. Check to see who runs the site. . .”

Website information is only as good as the people behind it. In a fumbling response to the audience member’s question, I offered that a website’s brand reflects its credibility. By choosing meticulous employees who work to ensure everything associated with the brand is accurate and properly represented, reliability is enhanced. In publishing, a key obligation is to obtain high-caliber content, to spend resources to fact-check, edit and proof content, and to properly credit sources of information.

Although my fellow Prepared Foods’ editors and I work diligently to provide reliable and useful content, much responsibility falls on our contributors. Through their care and hard work, the Prepared Foods brand stands for reliable, accurate information. My grateful thanks go to all of them. pf