Food Contamination Narratives in United States News Media

by Plummer, Stephanie C.

Abstract (Summary)
Firmly rooted in personal experience and individual memory, food symbolizes multiple aspects of one's life, identity, and community. However, food contamination events and food contamination hoaxes present challenges to this sense of identity and community. When food contamination events occur, United States news media is in a position to address their audiences' health concerns through discourses on identity, in terms of social role, group identity, and socially constructed identity markers. Through detailed examinations of television news transcripts, this paper attempts to locate food contamination narratives within issues of gender, class, regionalism, and nationalism. Specifically, this thesis studies food contamination discourse surrounding three events: Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butters contamination with salmonella in 2007, the E. coli contamination of bagged spinach in 2006 and a 2005 contamination hoax involving Wendys chili. An analysis of the words and phrases loaded with connotations and visual descriptions are particularly important to this thesis, because they are vital to the construction and distribution of relatable and troubling stories about food. Although “Food Contamination Narrative in US News Media” uses semiotic and content analysis to study news media, this thesis also relies on cultural and folkloristic theory to uncover social constructions of identity. This thesis suggests that food contamination narratives, as constructed through broadcast news rhetoric, may effect an individual's perception of themselves and their relationship to the larger national body.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:food contamination borne illness folk narrative legend salmonella e coli peanut butter spinach wendy s taboo identity


Date of Publication:01/01/2009

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.