Improving media discourses about medical diets: representations of food allergies in British newspapers and medical blogs, and the role of technology in reshaping knowledge and experiences of medical dieting

Abstract

This paper explores the characteristics of British news coverage of food allergies, and narratives about food allergies in top British medical blogs. Previous research has analysed the media portrayal of laws and policies about food allergy and anaphylaxis (Rachul and Caulfield 2011), but the many ways in which food allergies are discussed in the media are less explored, although they remain very relevant in shaping public understanding of medical dieting. Research exploring the relation between cultural dietary requirements (e.g. veganism) and media is widely available and multidisciplinary, but there is a lack for research exploring news coverage of dietary requirements originating from medical conditions. The aim of the paper is to investigate which representations of food allergies are given priority in the media, how, and in which contexts and circumstances, and to compare these journalistic representations to medical narratives online. To do this, the paper presents the results of a pilot content analysis of one year of coverage of food allergies in British newspapers, and a narrative analysis of a top medical blog about food allergies. The final part of our paper will reflect on how the results of the media analysis can inform the development of new digital apps for individuals with food allergies. This project intends to cement a multidisciplinary collaboration investigating food allergies communication and the role of technology in innovating food experiences for people with medical dietary requirements, in collaboration with Zess, a British-based company that helps people make food choices for their health, wellbeing and the environment using medical science and innovative digital technology. In particular, this study aims to prepare academics, citizens, and businesses to engage constructively with the debate about Natasha's Law, which will come into effect from October 2021 in the UK. The new law will include stricter requirements for the allergens labelling of foods, and it will provide an important occasion for knowledge exchange about food allergies in this country and globally. In these ways, this multidisciplinary project provides the basis for a discussion about media language and narratives that can enrich the debate about food allergies in society, and normalise social interactions where food allergies are present.

Description

Keywords

Food allergies, media, science communication, knowledge, experience, society, media analysis

Citation

Tiripelli, G., Furmonaviciene, R. and Richardson, R. (2021) Improving media discourses about medical diets: representations of food allergies in British newspapers and medical blogs, and the role of technology in reshaping knowledge and experiences of medical dieting. 2nd Biennial Conference on "Food and Communication; Discourses on the Future of Food'', Ljubljana, September 2021 (remotely).

Rights

Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research