Extrapolating understanding of food risk perceptions to emerging food safety cases

Gülbanu Kaptan*, Arnout R.H. Fischer, Lynn J. Frewer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Important determinants of risk perceptions associated with foods are the extent to which the potential hazards are perceived to have technological or naturally occurring origins, together with the acute vs. chronic dimension in which the potential hazard is presented (acute or chronic). This study presents a case study analysis based on an extensive literature review examining how these hazard characteristics affect people’s risk and benefit perceptions, and associated attitudes and behaviors. The cases include E. coli incidences (outbreaks linked to fresh spinach and fenugreek sprouts), contamination of fish by environmental pollutants, (organochlorine contaminants in farmed salmon), radioactive contamination of food following a nuclear accident (the Fukushima accident in Japan), and GM salmon destined for the human food chain. The analysis of the cases over the acute vs. chronic dimension suggests that longitudinal quantification of the relationship between risk perceptions and impacts is important for both acute and chronic food safety, but this has infrequently been applied to chronic hazards. Technologies applied to food production tend to potentially be associated with higher levels of risk perception, linked to perceptions that the risk is unnatural. However, for some risks (e.g. those involving biological irreversibility), moral or ethical concerns may be more important determinants of consumer responses than risk or benefit perceptions. (Lack of) trust has been highlighted in all of the cases suggesting transparent and honest risk–benefit communications following the occurrence of a food safety incident. Implications for optimizing associated risk communication strategies, additional research linking risk perception, and other quantitative measures, including comparisons in time and space, are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)996-1018
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number8
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • benefit perception
  • Food risk
  • risk communication
  • risk perception
  • food safety

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