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Mediators, Transparency and Circulation of Scientific Information in the Public Sphere: Understanding Crisis Response Apparatus in the Context of Food Safety Controversies. Panel SFSIC

Abstract : In a growing context of controversies, scandals and food-related health and sanitary crises, there is an increasing mistrust of individuals, and primarily consumers, about food safety and the whole food risk evaluation and management system. Indeed, for more than ten years French citizens’ trusts in food has decreased: in 2010, almost 56% of them considered that the food they ate will “damage” their health (Eurobaromètre, 2010: 97). When asked about the actors they trust the less, consumers tend to show great level of distrust toward the industry as well as scientific and public institutions (ANIA, 2014). If the 2013’s widespread horse meat scandal also known as "Findus Case", enjoined the industry to act more transparently in the process of information and traceability of food but also sowed doubt on the capacity of state actors to effectively protect citizens from food risks in a multi-intermediary system (Allard-Huver, 2016). In 2015, the WHO’s report showing increased risks of cancer for those consuming red meat, also sparked an international crisis in the food industry and in the agricultural sector with actors trying to defend their products while diminishing the influence or even undermining the works of scientists in the process. This growing concern, seems to be even more acute in the context of harsh scientific controversies such as pesticides or endocrine disruptors, especially when they involve actors at international level such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Since 2015, there has been an increase in the perception of risks related to food contamination by pesticides or endocrine disruptors: "Endocrine disruptors and food products are examples: the significant increase in perceived risk observed in 2017 is in line with a trend observed in previous years, with the 2017 score being historically high in both cases" (IRSN, 2018: 27), with strong links to the glyphosate controversy. Furthermore, "these situations are characterized by a lack of confidence in the action and credibility of information "(IRSN, 2017: 92), with French citizen feeling they’re being lied by authorities on these issues! Citizens then seems to seek new information sources and new civil society mediators to help them understand the complexity of controversies (Pascual-Espuny, 2014) What does these crisis and polemics tell us about the circulation of controversial scientific information in the public sphere? How can we analyze the multiple apparatus created by institutional and industrial actors to restore trust and consumers’ confidence in food safety by relying on "transparency"? What is the role and the agenda of new civil society mediators on these issues? This work will focus on answering these questions precisely on two points. First, we will analyze apparatus created to responds on food safety issues and crisis. On this point, we will pay particular attention to the processes of their mediatization and circulation, but also to the place and the role of the institutions, of their experts and how they produce discourses able to accompany and popularize scientific information on risks. Secondly, in a context of increasing crisis, we will seek to understand how the emergence of new actors / mediators questions the concept of transparency and the role of institutional and industrial actors in the public sphere when it comes to dietary risks to health.
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Contributor : François Allard-Huver <>
Submitted on : Sunday, August 9, 2020 - 3:22:07 PM
Last modification on : Monday, August 17, 2020 - 1:44:46 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-02913493, version 1


François Allard-Huver. Mediators, Transparency and Circulation of Scientific Information in the Public Sphere: Understanding Crisis Response Apparatus in the Context of Food Safety Controversies. Panel SFSIC. ICA19, The 69th Annual International Communication Association Conference. Communication Beyond Boundaries, May 2019, Washington DC, United States. ⟨hal-02913493⟩



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