Consumer preferences regarding food-related risk-benefit messages

H. van Dijk, E. van Kleef, H. Owen, L.J. Frewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The aim of this study is to identify and explore consumer preferences and information needs regarding the simultaneous communication of risks and benefits associated with food consumption. The focus is on the net health impact of risks and benefits on life expectancy, quality of life, and disability adjusted life years (DALYs). Design/methodology/approach – Focus groups were conducted in four countries (Iceland, The Netherlands, Portugal, UK). All sessions were audio-taped, transcribed and content analyzed. Findings – Current risk-benefit communication is perceived as “asymmetrical”, confusing, and often distrusted. Participants expressed a preference for more balanced and scientifically derived information. Information about the net health impact on both life expectancy and quality of life was found to be meaningful for food decision making. DALYs were thought too complicated. Research limitations/implications – Findings confirm the importance of incorporating consumers' viewpoints when developing communications about risk and benefits. The results provide insights into potential issues related to the communication of risk and benefit information. The limitations of the qualitative approach adopted in this study suggest that further research utilizing nationally representative samples is needed, which may explore additional metrics to communicate net health effects to consumers. Originality/value – Common measures for assessing both risks and benefits are expected to facilitate the communication of the results of risk-benefit assessment as part of risk analysis. However, research incorporating consumers' perspectives on this issue is scarce. A better understanding of how consumers perceive these measures may promote the development of more effective integrated risk benefit communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-400
JournalBritish Food Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012



  • genetically-modified foods
  • fish consumption
  • health
  • communication
  • nutrition
  • attitudes
  • perception
  • decisions
  • industry
  • bias

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