Toidu- ja terviseekspertide strateegiad riskide tõlgendamisel ja vahendamisel



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Tartu Ülikool


In this master's thesis "Strategies of food and health experts' in interpretation and facilitation of risks" the author tried to find out which are the risk interpretation and facilitation strategies of Estonian food and health experts in the post-modern risk and knowledge-based society. The scope of the study is food risks. The aim of the author was to find out what the experts base their risk ratings on, how willing they are to take into account any other knowledge and experience different from their expert systems, and how is the communicative role of experts seen in interpretation and mediation of risks. The centre of the theoretical part of the study is a professor of sociology Urich Beck and his theory of the risk society. The author finds that the characteristic features of risk society have a considerable influence on the communication of the society and put forward new demands for scientific information creation. Today we have a demand for complex risk communication. The lack of it leads to communicative tensions between communication flows of food and health risks directed by various interest groups. The experts are mediators of knowledge in the risk and knowledge-based society and that is why the study is focused on the experts' strategy. The method of the study is 9 semi-structured expert interviews with various specialists of the Estonian food and health sphere. The empirical results of the study showed that the experts base their risk ratings on a complex of various factors. The influencing factors of risk rating are the age and the level of education of the expert, working experience and environment, fiduciary relations and authorities, and health conditions of the person or his/her immediate family. The expert's attitude towards risks and the manners and types of risk handling eventually form in concurrence with all of those factors. By the attitude towards the risks, the experts who participated in the study could be placed on the following scale: high vs. low uncertainty in constructing the risks, meaning if and how the risks of the expert's rating are controllable. Low uncertainty means that the limits of safe/dangerous are clear for the expert and the expert does not have many doubts or hesitations. High uncertainty means that the limits of safe/dangerous are not that clear to the expert, the limits are not so well controllable and raise doubts and hesitations for the expert. The results show that the experts are willing to consider different knowledge from their own expert system if the risk defining strategy used before does not work anymore and/or the expert has doubts and hesitations about it. The reason for hesitations of that kind could be a health condition or other health disorders of the expert or his/her family member, also the expert's personal wider and more systematic interest of dietic matters. The expert is not willing to consider different knowledge and experience regarding his/her education, practice and competence if the hesitations do not rise regarding the strategy used by the expert so far. According to the experts, the surrounding media of food and health risks is shaped by very many factors and channels. The experts pointed out media, internet and books, scientific research and articles, packages and verbally spreading information such as rumours and myths as the information source and information mediation medium. In addition to that, the information medium is influenced by Estonia, the European Union and the industry. The experts who participated in the study interpret the public information medium as a very eclectic one where it is very hard for the consumer to orientate without having prior knowledge about food and health risks. In addition to this overall eclecticism, the experts find that there are two controversial communication flows in the communicative medium. In contrary to the main communication flow emanating from the verifiability of risks which is representing the industry, Estonia and the EU, there is a so called alternative communication flow emanating from uncontrollable risks which represents the experts who stand for "sufferers' voice", the consumers aware of risks, and new business trends such as eco-production and eco-marketing. Due to the eclectic nature of the information medium and controversial information flows, there are communicative tensions of food and health risks also in the Estonian society which need addressing sooner or later. The experts' vision of their role in interpreting and mediating risks depends on the expert's communicative activity. The experts who participated in the study have a different level of activity in the communication of food and health risks. The experts who are active or moderately active in the communication see their role as a food and health risk mediators. Different views on the risks among the experts raise various problematic topics. There are two controversial groups in the other experts’ communication rating that do not accept each other: experts with high communicative activity who believe that the risks are clearly determinable and controllable vs. experts with high communicative activity who believe that the risks are indeterminable and uncontrollable. Therefore, the difference is essentially in the view on risks. The presence and absence of control contrast with the lack of and/or controllability of risks. All in all, in the light of this master's thesis it can be clearly noted that there are communicative tensions in the sphere of food and health risks among the two contrasting communication flows. One of those flows denies the food and health risks and emanates from the fact that the risks are defined and controllable. In contrary, the other flow emanates from the fact that there are risks and that the risks are indefinable and thus uncontrollable. The communicative tensions arising from risk communication need solutions sooner or later.