Framing the debate and taking positions on food allergen legislation: The 100 chefs incident on social media

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Those suffering with food allergies and intolerances need to consider risk every day, and professional organisations are increasingly enrolled in this risk management venture (e.g. offering support, developing legislation, and enforcing laws). Following the release of new food allergen rules in the UK, the Daily Telegraph, a national broadsheet newspaper, published a letter and an article in March 2015 endorsed by 100 chefs criticising the legislation. The chefs felt that innovation and creativity were being harmed by the requirement to state the presence of 14 allergens in the dishes they cooked. Following the release, many food allergen-concerned consumers utilised social media to share their views. In this article we use qualitative research data, comments posted online and collected between 9 and 16 March 2015, to explore how claimants positioned themselves and others in the ensuing online debate, and how the debate itself was framed. The data included traditional news articles, online forum comments, individual Twitter posts, and Twitter discussions. We identified frames across the debate discourse that emphasised medical concerns around managing risks associated with food allergy/intolerance, the assignment of responsibility, fairness of access, the political nature of the debate, and the financial implications involved. We draw on Positioning Theory to illustrate how user-positions can be defined, redefined, and challenged in the light of new or varying information. Our findings have implications for understanding communication around managing food risks from both a consumer and business perspective, and understanding the progression of debates through both traditional and new media platforms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-167
Number of pages24
JournalHealth Risk & Society
Issue number3-4
Early online date26 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • risk
  • food allergy
  • food intolerance
  • framing
  • Positioning Theory
  • social media


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