The overall objective of this study is to examine how the institutional context of food safety affects and is affected by concerns for legitimacy and reputation. The paper employs a neo-institutional approach to analyzing the institutional field of food safety in a case study of a multinational food service provider where a tension between conflicting institutional logics implied a reputational challenge. The study shows how food safety as a well-defined operational risk is transformed into a high-priority reputational risk and how actors in the field of food safety are caught in a state of mutual distrust, partly as a consequence of an intense politicization of food risk over the past years and partly as a result of their respective concerns for legitimacy. The study points to how the field of food safety is colonized by a reputational logic that is paradoxically reproduced by actors at all organizational levels even though they strongly oppose to this logic.
- Food safety
- Public relations