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Reassuring or Risky: The Presentation of Seafood Safety in the Aftermath of the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

June 05, 2013
American Journal of Public Health

Amelia L. Greiner, PhD, Lisa P. Lagasse, MHS, Roni A. Neff, PhD, David C. Love, PhD, Rachel Chase, BS, Natasha Sokol, MPH, and Katherine Clegg Smith, PhD

The BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was enormously newsworthy; coverage interlaced discussions of health, economic, and environmental impacts and risks. We analyzed 315 news articles that considered Gulf seafood safety from the year following the spill. We explored reporting trends, risk presentation, message source, stakeholder perspectives on safety, and framing of safety messages. Approximately one third of articles presented risk associated with seafood consumption as a standalone issue, rather than in conjunction with environmental or economic risks. Government sources were most frequent and their messages were largely framed as reassuring as to seafood safety. Discussions of prevention were limited to short-term, secondary prevention approaches. These data demonstrate a need for risk communication in news coverage of food safety that addresses the larger risk context, primary prevention, and structural causes of risk.

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