Public attitudes to emerging food technologies

Food Standards Agency
Start date:
August 2008
November 2008

A rapid evidence review to consolidate the FSA’s understanding of public attitudes to emerging food technologies, and to identify gaps in the existing evidence.

The Food Standard Agency commissioned Brook Lyndhurst to carry out an evidence review to scope out and summarise the existing evidence on public attitudes towards novel food technologies, in order to provide the FSA with an up-to-date understanding of public opinion.

The purpose of the review was to identify and summarise the publicly available evidence on:

  • what the public‘s views are on emerging food technologies;
  • what views differ depending on the type of technology;
  • what shapes the public‘s views;
  • whether different types of people hold different views;
  • how views affect behaviour such as food choices;
  • how views have changed over time;
  • what relevant research is in progress; and
  • what the gaps in the research are.

The methodology for this compact evidence review entailed four elements.

  • Scoping: We conducted an initial search for materials, principally using on-line methods. This built on an initial list of sources compiled by the FSA and covered academic, grey, government and commercial sources. The process was thoroughly documented throughout so as to be replicable. A total of 419 items were logged.
  • Expert interviews: We interviewed 16 eminent people in the research field, to complement our scoping exercise and to identify any relevant forthcoming, as-yet unpublished research.
  • Prioritisation: The identified sources were assessed against a set of selection criteria and scored on the basis of their quality and reliability, the robustness of the methodology, their relevance to the research questions, publication date and location. Following this process, 92 sources were classed as high priority for review.
  • Full review: A total of 105 sources – the 92 high priority sources plus key references signposted in them – were reviewed. Relevant information was extracted and recorded in a research framework, whose structure followed the research questions closely. 

The final report sets out the findings of the evidence review and describes the evidence as it relates to specific novel food technologies. While the main body of the report is concise, it is annotated with a supporting set of notes that provide detailed examples of key points from the supporting evidence.

The report can be downloaded from the FSA website here.

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