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Communicating food safety: Ethical issues in risk communication

Communicating food safety: Ethical issues in risk communication This paper discusses two paradigms of risk communication that guide strategies for communicating food safety issues. Built on the principles of social utility and paternalism, the first paradigm heavily relies on science and technical experts to determine food safety regulations and policies. Risk communication, in this context, is a unidirectional process by which experts from the industry or government regulatory agencies inform or alert potentially affected publics about the hazards they face and the protective actions they can take. However, public trust and confidence in government and industry have considerably declined. Experts are being questioned about the objectivity of their assessments of risks. Policy makers are being challenged on such risk management decisions as tolerance guidelines, food labeling laws, and emergency warning systems. Concomitantly, some segments of the public, especially consumer advocates and environmental groups, are demanding increased input into the decision making process as they call for the recognition of lay perceptions and interpretations of risk as a legitimate counterpart to technically-assessed risk. Hence, instead of the linear, persuasion-oriented communication process, there are evolving efforts to shape risk communication into a more dialogical, interactive, and democratic exchange of information among different stakeholders (i.e., technical experts, government policy makers, industry, interest groups, and the general public). Reflecting a more Jeffersonian approach, this second paradigm argues that decisions about food safety are so complex and multi-dimensional that they must not be left to experts alone. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Agriculture and Human Values Springer Journals

Communicating food safety: Ethical issues in risk communication

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright
Subject
Philosophy; Ethics; Agricultural Economics; Veterinary Medicine/Veterinary Science; History, general; Evolutionary Biology
ISSN
0889-048X
eISSN
1572-8366
DOI
10.1007/BF02217623
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper discusses two paradigms of risk communication that guide strategies for communicating food safety issues. Built on the principles of social utility and paternalism, the first paradigm heavily relies on science and technical experts to determine food safety regulations and policies. Risk communication, in this context, is a unidirectional process by which experts from the industry or government regulatory agencies inform or alert potentially affected publics about the hazards they face and the protective actions they can take. However, public trust and confidence in government and industry have considerably declined. Experts are being questioned about the objectivity of their assessments of risks. Policy makers are being challenged on such risk management decisions as tolerance guidelines, food labeling laws, and emergency warning systems. Concomitantly, some segments of the public, especially consumer advocates and environmental groups, are demanding increased input into the decision making process as they call for the recognition of lay perceptions and interpretations of risk as a legitimate counterpart to technically-assessed risk. Hence, instead of the linear, persuasion-oriented communication process, there are evolving efforts to shape risk communication into a more dialogical, interactive, and democratic exchange of information among different stakeholders (i.e., technical experts, government policy makers, industry, interest groups, and the general public). Reflecting a more Jeffersonian approach, this second paradigm argues that decisions about food safety are so complex and multi-dimensional that they must not be left to experts alone.

Journal

Agriculture and Human ValuesSpringer Journals

Published: Sep 27, 2005

References