The Power of Risk Perception: The discord between public & scientific perception of risks around food

Fabiansson, Charlotte ORCID: 0000-0003-1984-9226 (2016) The Power of Risk Perception: The discord between public & scientific perception of risks around food. In: The futures we want: global sociology and the struggles for a better world. 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology, 10 July 2016-14 July 2016, University of Vienna, Austria.


In the twenty-first century society, risk has become a common concept used in diverse situations as risks can be found in any situation. The societal debate about risk reignites every time a new scare is emerging, be it a nuclear plant meltdown, a climate change driven natural catastrophe or a food scare. What is actually a risk is debatable in many settings as it depends on the context, the social and cultural milieu but it is also about who defines the situation or action as a risk, the expert or the layperson. The risk concept is especially well grounded within food production, processing and consumption. Experts and scientific research define risks, but so too do consumers. Some common ground exists about what food is safe and what food is risky to eat, but there is also a wide gap between what the experts’ assess as a risk and what a layperson considers a risk, particularly in regard to foods that are not considered “natural”. Food scares do not necessarily create life-changing food consumption behaviour, as eating habits are among the most deeply ingrained forms of human traditions well established in an individual’s social and cultural environment. In this paper, I discuss, how the gap between public perception and expert opinion of food risks can be understood from the socio-cultural, risk society and the governmentality risk discourses.

Item type Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1608 Sociology
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Arts
Keywords Risk perception; Food risks; Socio-cultural risk discourse; Risk society discourse; Governmentally risk discourse
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