Public preferences for informed choice under conditions of risk uncertainty

Lynn J. Frewer, Susan Miles, Mary Brennan, Sharon Kuznesof, Mitchell Ness, Christopher Ritson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

117 Citations (Scopus)


It has been assumed that the general public is unable to conceptualize information about risk uncertainties, and so communication about food risk has tended to avoid this type of information. However, recent societal and political pressure to increase transparency in risk management practices will result in the uncertainties inherent in risk analysis becoming subject to public scrutiny. Best practice regarding risk communication must address how to communicate risk uncertainty. A questionnaire was developed that aimed to assess how the general public characterized uncertainty associated with food risks. The results indicated that people wanted to be provided with information about food risk uncertainty as soon as the uncertainty was identified. People were more accepting of uncertainty associated with the scientific process of risk management than they were of uncertainty due to lack of action or lack of interest on the part of the government. The findings indicate that the focus of risk communication should be on “what is being done to reduce the uncertainty.” Recommendations are made regarding best practice for communicating risk uncertainty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-372
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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