Public Perceptions of Food-related Risks: A Cross-national Investigation of Individual and Contextual Influences


Public concerns about food risks have grown in recent decades in response to many food-related scandals. Despite some evidence that risk concerns vary across societies and risk domains, these variations remain understudied. To address this gap, this paper conducts a multi-level analysis of public concerns about biological and chemical/technical food risks in 26 European countries. Findings confirm previous work on individual predictors of risk concern and suggest that several contextual factors contribute to cross-national variations: aggregate perceptions of risks as unnatural, retail concentration in the food sector, and media coverage. The effect of institutional trust on risk concerns varies substantially across nations. Findings also reveal important differences in public concerns about biological versus chemical/technical food risks, supporting the view that food risk perception is multi-dimensional and complex.

Journal of Risk Research