Perceptions of food risk management among key stakeholders: Results from a cross-European study

Ellen van Kleef, Lynn J. Frewer, George M. Chryssochoidis, Julie R. Houghton, Sara Korzen-Bohr, Thanassis Krystallis, Jesper Lassen, Uwe Pfenning and Gene Rowe.
Journal: Appetite, July 2006, 47(1), pp 46-63.


In designing and implementing appropriate food risk management strategies, it is important to examine how key stakeholders perceive both the practice and effectiveness of food risk management. The objective of this study is to identify similarities and differences in perceptions of, and attitudes to, food risk management practices held by consumers and experts with an interest in food safety. Focus groups were conducted in five European countries chosen for their (hypothesised) cultural differences in attitudes towards risk: Denmark, Germany, Greece, Slovenia and the UK. Content analysis was carried out on the resulting texts and (sub) categories were identified within the analysis framework to facilitate the capture of emerging themes.

Five key themes were identified as common to the perceptions of both consumers and experts, although these are not represented in the same way by both groups. These key themes are: (1) efforts made by the responsible authorities to manage food risks; (2) responsibility for prevention and management of food risks; (3) how priorities are established within regulatory systems; (4) scientific progress and its implications for food risk management; and (5) media attention and food safety incidents.

Although some similarities emerged between the groups, differences were also identified. For example, experts appeared to be highly negative about media influences, whereas consumers appeared more indifferent about media influences and motives. These different perspectives need to be addressed in order to reduce the perceptual distance between key stakeholders, and in particular, to enhance consumer confidence in the food risk management system. Based on the study findings, recommendations for food risk management policies are outlined.


Food safety; Consumer perceptions; Expert views; Lay-expert differences; Food risk management; Risk analysis; Consumers; Trust; Denmark; Germany; Greece; Slovenia; United Kingdom