Scientific information, elite attitudes, and the public debate over food safety

Ardith Maney, Eric Plutzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Why do consumers often react with alarm to food technologies (such as irradiation, genetic engineering, artificial hormones, and chemical pesticides) that scientists regard as essentially safe? We examine the attitudes toward food safety of three types of elites who serve as providers of scientific information regarding food safety to the United States public. Previous research suggests that journalists are likely to exaggerate risks associated with emerging food technologies, while minimizing risks associated with natural pathogens. This bias is hypothesized to be political in origin. By and large, our sample of newspaper editors was only slightly more concerned than were United States government policymakers and a sample of scientists. The expected pattern of alarm occurs clearly only in the case of irradiation. In addition, modest correlations of ideology to safety assessments were found for all three types of elites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-56
Number of pages15
JournalPolicy Studies Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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