Science - April 20, 2006

‘Food crises are work of the media’

European food safety experts have little respect for the media. In their eyes, the recent food crises are above all the work of journalists, according to Wageningen research carried out among consumers and experts in five European countries.

According to the experts, the media create unnecessary worry among consumers. Journalists tend to consult different sources and then present different expert opinions, which can mislead consumers. Another problem is that the media publish a lot of reports on one subject for a short period, and then stop reporting, even if the government issues press statements on the same subject.

‘Consumers are not so negative about the media,’ says Dr Ellen van Kleef, who works with the Marketing and Consumer Behaviour Group. ‘They also understand that the media wants to make money and that its role is not to protect consumers.’

The research results will be published soon in Appetite, and are culled from discussions held by four focus groups consisting of experts and consumers. ‘We wanted to find out what consumers and experts regard as the best way of dealing with food safety,’ says Van Kleef. ‘We are now testing the points that emerged in big surveys.’ The research is part of the European Safe Foods project.

The research also indicated that the Danes are most satisfied with the way their country deals with food safety. ‘In Denmark they are not particularly worried,’ says Van Kleef. ‘They think their government takes good care of them. The Danes take food safety for granted, but for the Greek participants it was a different story. The Greeks have a more negative impression of how their countries deals with food crises than the Danes.’ / WK

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