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The case of UK Government recommendations on red and processed meat consumption and cancer prevention. Towards a theory of mediatized food policy?

Wells, R. (2017). The case of UK Government recommendations on red and processed meat consumption and cancer prevention. Towards a theory of mediatized food policy?. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)

Abstract

Bowel cancer accounts for 11% of all new cancer cases and is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. Nutrition science has identified a link between high levels of red and processed meat consumption and incidence of bowel cancer. While the evidence underpinning this link remains uncertain, in 1998 and again in 2011 the UK government recommended that high consumers of red and processed meat should reduce their intake. Despite stable government advice in this area for over a decade, the UK print media have frequently reported on this issue using alarmist headlines, at the same time often attempting to undermine these recommendations. This research aims to understand the apparent mismatch between stable government advice and volatile media reporting in this area of food policy.

The research takes the form of one extended case study, using two periods of policy development as embedded units of analysis: the first, the period 1993-1998 when the first government recommendation on red and processed meat consumption was made. The second, the period 2001-2011 when a further recommendation was made. Data was collected from archived policy documents, print media coverage and semi-structured interviews. Policy documents were analysed using the Health Policy Triangle; media coverage was analysed using content analysis and the semi-structured interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. The results provide evidence of: 1) Limitations in the evidence considered by policymakers. 2)Tensions over transparency in the policymaking process. 3) Consideration of the media and media coverage after the policy had been set. 4) Commercial pressures on the print media industry influencing journalists’ reporting. 5) Key stakeholders including government seeking to influence print media coverage. 6) The iconic status of red and processed meat in UK media coverage, where its consumption was a presented as a matter of individual choice. 7) Long periods of inaction on the part of policy makers.

Informed by literature on agenda setting and agenda building the research sets out to answer the extent to which UK food policy is affected by media coverage, processes and norms, and goes on to combine agenda setting and mediatization theories to develop a proposed integrated theory of mediatized food policy. This has the potential to explain the interactions between media coverage and food policy and the influence of one on the other. The research also contributes to food policy scholarship by challenging the concept of ‘evidence-based policy making’ and to journalism studies by further describing the ways in which media processes and key media gatekeepers influence media coverage of food policies.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Arts & Social Sciences
School of Arts & Social Sciences > Journalism
School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology > Food Policy
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/22301
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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