The "all-american meal": Constructing confidence in the case of BSE

Wynne Wright, Elizabeth Ransom, Keiko Tanaka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Using content analysis of newspaper coverage of the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States, we analyze the media's portrayal of the "BSE crisis," from a social constructionist perspective. We identify the salient claims-makers in the dialogue over food safety as it pertains to the discovery of BSE and we examine the content of their claims to reveal their core messages. We find that public definitions and responses to the disease are influenced by claims-makers and claims-making activities. Some actors construct claims of confidence to deny the severity of the disease, while others construct and disseminate claims of risk in the beef commodity chain, while still others diffuse claims of skepticism and uncertainty. These findings offer support for understanding claims-making as shaped by contextual forces. Claims are not made in a vacuum but are given meaning based upon biophysical and socio-cultural contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-115
Number of pages21
JournalIllness Crisis and Loss
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005


  • Agrifood
  • BSE
  • Bovine spongiform encephalopathy
  • Claims-making
  • Food safety
  • Mad cow disease
  • Moral panic
  • Social construction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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