FDA Awards Westat Contracts to Test Labeling and Messaging to Consumers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has awarded Westat over a dozen tasks in 2022, including literature reviews, focus groups, cognitive interviews, pretesting, and experimental studies. This work is aimed at providing insight on consumer and health care professionals’ perceptions of, motivations toward, and attitudes about products under FDA’s oversight, and will help FDA move forward with more accurate and informative messaging.

Kerry Levin

“Westat is a natural fit for this work. We have strong, established expertise in message testing and a team that specializes in qualitative analysis and reporting,” notes Kerry Levin, PhD, a Vice President of Public Health and Epidemiology. “Our goal on these important tasks is to maintain a collaborative, collegial, client-centered relationship and to successfully execute each project to meet the needs of FDA.”

The work involves a team with the technical expertise and flexibility to meet the challenge of quick-turnaround deadlines.

For example, Westat will conduct in-depth interviews and focus groups (both in person and virtually) to gather data on consumers’ understanding of and real-world experiences with products and medical devices as diverse as CBD, sunscreen, and genetically engineered salmon. Studies will also examine consumers’ interpretations of food and dietary supplement labels, and direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising.

Another area of research is on food safety, including focus groups to explore consumer knowledge about toxic elements in baby foods. The study also will include in-depth interviews with pediatricians, nurse-midwives, and WIC and SNAP educators to better understand what information these professionals have about the topic. In addition to this qualitative work on food safety, Westat is conducting the Food Safety and Nutrition Survey, which captures consumer perceptions, knowledge, and behaviors related to diet, nutrition, health, and food safety.

There’s a lot at stake—consumer education and safety relies on consumer understanding of sometimes complicated labeling and messaging around products and devices. FDA’s goal is to communicate clearly with the public at all levels of literacy and ensure that people are making informed, healthy, and safe choices. These research tasks call on Westat methodologists, qualitative researchers, and mixed-methods analysts to provide accurate, timely, and insightful data to inform FDA policy.

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