Risk/Benefit Communication about Food—A Systematic Review of the Literature

L.J. Frewer*, A.R.H. Fischer, M. Brennan, D. Bánáti, R. Lion, R.M. Meertens, G. Rowe, M. Siegrist, W. Verbeke, C.M.J.L. Vereijken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


A systematic review relevant to the following research questions was conducted (1) the extent to which different theoretical frameworks have been applied to food risk/benefit communication and (2) the impact such food risk/benefit communication interventions have had on related risk/benefit attitudes and behaviors. Fifty four papers were identified. The analysis revealed that (primarily European or US) research interest has been relatively recent. Certain food issues were of greater interest to researchers than others, perhaps reflecting the occurrence of a crisis, or policy concern. Three broad themes relevant to the development of best practice in risk (benefit) communication were identified: the characteristics of the target population; the contents of the information; and the characteristics of the information sources. Within these themes, independent and dependent variables differed considerably. Overall, acute risk (benefit) communication will require advances in communication process whereas chronic communication needs to identify audience requirements. Both citizen's risk/benefit perceptions and (if relevant) related behaviors need to be taken into account, and recommendations for behavioral change need to be concrete and actionable. The application of theoretical frameworks to the study of risk (benefit) communication was infrequent, and developing predictive models of effective risk (benefit) communication may be contingent on improved theoretical perspectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1728-1745
JournalCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • benefit communication
  • food hazard
  • food safety
  • risk communication
  • Risk perception
  • trust


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