Implications for effective food risk communication following the Fukushima nuclear accident based on a consumer survey

Nam Hee Kim, Tae Jin Cho, Yu Been Kim, Byoung Il Park, Hee Sung Kim, Min-Suk Rhee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Food consumers became more concerned about radioactive contamination of food after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011; thus, the present study aimed to survey food consumers to obtain their views on risk perception, general knowledge, confidence in existing information sources, and the information required to develop strategic risk communication plans. In total, we surveyed 1208 food consumers in the Republic of Korea, who were selected randomly for a multi-stage stratified systematic sampling process with a computer-aided telephone interview based on random digit dialing. A high number of consumers (77.2%) actually avoided purchasing Japanese foods because they perceived that there was a potential radiological risk. The consumers' levels of knowledge about radioactivity, environmental radiation, and health effects were relatively low, particularly the safe dosage limits for radiation and natural radioactive decay (recognition rate<30.0%). A number of the respondents (56.1%) were seldom or never confident in the government's handling of food safety following the accident. Among the existing information sources, mass media (36.9%) were considered to be the most credible, followed by consumer organizations (26.6%), governmental institutions (12.5%), and food safety experts (7.7%). The subjects required a variety of information on food safety issues related to radioactive contaminations, but their actual search behaviors were highly passive. In relation to the socio-demographic characteristics, women and consumers with high involvement in food purchasing tended to be more sensitive about the potential risks for food produced in those areas affected by the nuclear accident. In relation to general knowledge, women, the elderly, and those with low educational attainment tended to have low awareness of radioactivity, environmental radiation, and the health effects of radiation exposure. These results provide a valuable resource for understanding consumers' general opinions about food safety issues following the Fukushima nuclear accident. In addition, they may facilitate the production of meaningful recommendations regarding appropriate risk communications and the education of consumers about the radiological safety of foods in the context of a potential nuclear emergency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-312
Number of pages9
JournalFood Control
Volume50
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Sep 18

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