Food risk communication: analysis of the media coverage of food risk on Italian online daily newspapers

Abstract

The present study analysed the media coverage of food risk in the online editions of the four leading Italian daily newspapers in order to explore which topics were mainly covered and which aspects were preferably stressed. The media coverage was compared to data published on the RASFF Portal, in order to verify whether the selected sources worked promoting adequate information about food risks, or rather responding to news making criteria. Time series and content analysis were conducted on 2286 food risk news published between 2010 and 2014. The RASFF Portal returned 2697 alert notifications that were analysed and compared with the media coverage results. Findings show that apart from media peaks the selected sources generally cover food risk without much variability. The great majority of RASFF data did not receive specific mention among the news articles analysed, suggesting that the selected sources cover food safety issues responding more to a gate keeping bias. In relation to food incidents that generated major coverage, apart from the 2011 E. coli outbreak, the media were functioning conveying alarmist messages rather than informing and mitigating risks.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    RASFF is a tool enabling the quick and effective exchange of information between Member States and the Commission when risks to human and animal health are detected in the food and feed chain.

  2. 2.

    Cossu: he is an Italian journalist (Giordano Cossu), that followed the Haiti emergency in the aftermath of the earthquake.

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Acknowledgements

The study was conducted by the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie in cooperation with the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell’Umbria e delle Marche, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Philosophy at the University of Catania, the Faculty of Veterinary medicine at the University of Parma, the Observa-Science in Society research centre and the local health authority of Modena.

Funding

This work was funded by the Italian Ministry of Health (research project RF IZSVe 1524178/2009 “Reducing unjustified consumer alarmism by mapping, monitoring and improving food safety communication in the media”). The project has also received a grant from FNOVI (the Italian Federation of the Professional Association of Veterinarians).

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Tiozzo, B., Pinto, A., Neresini, F. et al. Food risk communication: analysis of the media coverage of food risk on Italian online daily newspapers. Qual Quant 53, 2843–2866 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-019-00897-3

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Keywords

  • Food risk
  • Media coverage
  • Risk communication
  • Online daily newspapers