Food Scares: Reflections and Reactions

Nina Veflen Olsen, Oddveig Storstad, Bendik Samuelsen, Solveig Langsrud, Therese Hagtvedt, Fredrik Gregersen, Øydis Ueland


2014, a researcher from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health stated in a newspaper interview that she never touched chicken with her bare hands. This interview was the beginning of a media storm, which resulted in a 25% sales drop for chicken within three months. To be able to understand why this interview had such a strong effect, we conducted an explorative case study. Findings from previous studies of food safety behavior indicate that consumers are irrational and that information is not enough to change behavior. Gigerenzer (2015), however, argue in a recent article that the claim that people are hardly educable lacks evidence. He cites Simon (1985) quote that “people are generally quite rational; that is, they usually have reasons for what they do” and claims that teaching people to become risk savvy is a true alternative to nudging.
The aim of our study is to shed light on the rationality debate by exploring consumers’ reflections and reactions to the previously mentioned food scare article. Data from five focus-group interviews with Norwegian consumers of chicken were transcribed, content analyzed, and in-vitro coded, before we conducted a multiple correspondence analysis in PAST. We developed a graphical plot of our results, which we visually inspected and interpreted. The findings indicate that consumers do reflect when confronted with food scares. Some question the research behind the news, others wonder how dangerous this food scare is compared to other risks. Consumers are not irrational, even though their emotions co-occur more often with their behavior than their reflections.

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ISSN 2194-511X


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