The "Sour" Smell of Fake Scented Rice: Media Coverage and Public Knowledge, Risk Perception and Behaviors in Response to a Food Safety Scandal

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Li, Jing
Iowa State University; Digital Repository @ Iowa State University
Food safety scandal; Risk communication; Second level agenda-setting
thesis / dissertation description
When the renowned high-quality Wuchang rice was found to be adulterated with rice of low quality and scented with a fake aroma, the Chinese people were subjected to yet another case of food safety breach. This study examines the second-level agenda setting function of newspapers in the city of Xi'an in Shaanxi province, and sought to determine the intervening function of trust in shaping public knowledge, risk perception, and protective behaviors adopted to cope with the threat.A content analysis of local newspapers and a survey of a purposive sample of Xi'an residents were conducted. The results show that the issue was assigned a low priority in the newspapers' agenda. People had low levels of knowledge about the incident, relatively high levels of risk perception, and took actions to mitigate the dangers without government and media assistance. The respondents reported they did not trust the government at all, showed moderate trust levels in the media, and trusted interpersonal sources the most.Trust in media influenced the extent to which it is seen that experts are aware of potential health threats. Trust in government had a significant bearing on the public's perception that the risks are known to experts and within their control. Trust in media and in government had no bearing on knowledge level and risk behaviors. Trust in interpersonal communication channels was not related to knowledge level, risk perception, and risk behavior.