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Food Safety (1)

Food Safety (1)

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British Food Journal

Emerald Article: Food safety risk: Consumer perception and purchase behaviour Ruth M.W. Yeung, Joe Morris

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To cite this document: Ruth M.W. Yeung, Joe Morris, (2001),"Food safety risk: Consumer perception and purchase behaviour", British Food Journal, Vol. 103 Iss: 3 pp. 170 - 187 Permanent link to this document: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00070700110386728 Downloaded on: 29-05-2012 References: This document contains references to 82 other documents Citations: This document has been cited by 11 other documents To copy this document: permissions@emeraldinsight.com This document has been downloaded 9595 times.

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which fell from 8. Yeung and Joe Morris Introduction The retail volume sales of beef and veal dropped significantly from 617. 2001. Bedfordshire. UK Keywords Food safety. 1997. psychological assessments of risk.000 tonnes in 1988 to 390.com/ft BFJ 103. Such divergence may arise because of inadequacy of risk communication systems and/or a loss of confidence or trust in the food supply chain and its various agents.The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www. 1997). Food choice is often influenced more by the psychological interpretation of product properties than the physical properties of products themselves (Rozin et al. perception of food safety risk has consequences for both consumer and producer welfare. 103 No. including regulators. Consumer behaviour. Thus. In this context. 1999. Risk perception. 0007-070X Food safety has become a major issue of public concern in the UK. encouraging the UK Government and the food industry to take steps to rebuild consumer confidence.emerald-library. British Food Journal. the paper draws on a review of research literature to develop a conceptual framework to identify and review the factors influencing consumer perception of food safety related risks and the likely impact on purchasing behaviour. Chicken meat Abstract Food safety has become a major issue of public concern. 170-186. Hart. evident in the recent establishment of the Food Standards Agency for England and Wales (Pring. This is especially the case where there is considerable divergence between what might be called objective. together with the implication for the food industry. It is also of considerable political significance. Restoring confidence in food now presents a considerable commercial challenge to the food industry (Jardine. 1997. Perception of food safety risk is one such psychological interpretation which influences the attitudes and behaviour of consumers with respect to the purchase of food products.. 1986).556 millions in 1989 following the emergence of Salmonella (Mintel. Silsoe. Green. and alleged risks associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food have reduced consumer confidence in the healthiness of food products.W.270 millions in 1988 to 6. whose remit includes aspects of reassuring public faith in food. and the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the food supply chain. In many respects. 3. Food safety risk 170 Ruth M. technical assessments of risk and subjective. Risk reduction. this divergence and its consequences have been evident in the UK BSE crisis with respect to . The relevance of strategies adopted by consumers to reduce risk exposure and the influence on the likelihood of food purchase are also explored. # MCB University Press. A similar pattern was found in the retail volume sales of eggs. Vol.3 Consumer perception and purchase behaviour Cranfield University.000 tonnes in 1996 after the public announcement which related BSE disease to CJD in humans. 1999). pp. as bacterial outbreaks. 1998). bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Gregoriadis.

Thus. Critics of the technical approach to risk definition are quick to point out that it is inadequate for two main reasons. 2000). Definition of risk In the context of potentially harmful situations. are very different from those used in risky situations where outcomes and probabilities are to a large extent reasonably well-defined (Wilkes. How does this perception of risk influence food purchase decisions? .expressions of public concerns and management responses by industry and Food safety risk Government (MAFF. of occurrence of a defined hazard and the magnitude of the consequences of the occurrence'' (Royal Society. Strategies adopted by consumers to reduce exposure to perceived risk are also examined. HMSO. risk is technically defined as ``a combination of the probability. therefore. The review is carried out in preparation for a proposed analysis of risk induced purchaser behaviour for fresh meat products. First. the identities and relative probabilities of outcomes are not fully known and. What are the implications for the food industry? Drawing on a review of research literature. Meikle. consumer risk perception and purchase behaviour. such as minimising regret or satisfying some minimum requirement. 1992. this paper explores the link between the characteristics of food safety related risk. In this context. 1999. situations with serious but highly unlikely hazards might be rated as having very low ``technical'' risk once the magnitude of the hazard is multiplied by the very low probability. for many situations hazardous to public and environmental health. The overriding purpose is to identify appropriate risk management strategies for the food industry. Goodwin and Wright. together with the implications for risk communication and management strategies for the food industry. This is the kind of risk assessment often engaged in environmental and safety management. How do the characteristics of food risk affect consumers' risk perception 171 of food safety? . Decision rules for uncertain situations. It attempts to answer the questions: . by definition the context is one of ``uncertainty'' rather than ``risk''. risk and the possible effect on purchase likelihood. The statistical treatment of risk derives an expected average value for a risky situation based on the sum of the products of possible outcomes and their respective relative probabilities. 1999. using the case of chicken meat for which consumer confidence has at times been shaken by concern over contaminated feed and intensive production and processing methods (Bates. What action do consumers take to relieve their perceived food risk? . . 1989. 1995). the paper works towards a conceptual model which links the antecedent factors which shape consumer perception of food. or frequency. 2000). 1997). including the review of risk associated with the disposal of carcasses potentially contaminated with BSE (DNV Technica.

(Phillips. Salmonella is commonly found in association with raw meat (FSAC. growth control hormone. Listeria monocytogenes. 1993). The common food poisoning bacteria are Salmonella. 1999). It is this divergence of perspective that is at the root of the difference between technical and social definitions of risk. Miles et al. Chemical hazards Chemical hazards are associated with the use of chemical additives. 1995). The presence of Campylobacter spp. Previous studies show that between 30 and 100 per cent of broilers at the point of retail sale have been contaminated on the surface with Campylobacter spp.BFJ 103. Chemical usage includes the use of agri-chemicals. A hazard is an event or occurrence associated with an activity or process.3 172 1997). Phillips (1995) suggests that Campylobacter coli is the most common cause of diarrhoea in the UK associated with eating food contaminated with living bacteria. which can result in negative consequences and thereby provide a source of risk to a receiving environment or population. The first two of these are commonly found in chicken meat. 1993). These are living micro-organisms which can cause food spoilage and possibly food poisoning for the consumer. It has been reported that major supermarkets have found that up to one in ten chickens has been infected by Salmonella (Meikle.000 cases in 1985 to over 93. The vast majority of reported food poisoning cases within the UK are bacterial. These can be harmful to health directly or indirectly. Campylobacter coli. processes and controls in the agricultural and food industries. Trickett (1997) reports that the majority of chickens and many other farm animals carry Salmonella in their intestines due to the frequently contaminated animal feed and intensive rearing methods.. Sources of food risk The analysis of risk relating to food safety can begin with the identification of food hazards. microbiological. Second. and Escherichia coli (FSAC. 1999). 1995). individuals and groups exposed to the hazard tend to focus on the severity of possible consequences more than the probability of occurrence when they assess the significance of exposure to risk or uncertainty. The incidences of food poisoning in England and Wales rose from below 14. and the reason why technical assessment of risk has proved an inadequate basis for the management of social risk. This is especially the case when outcomes are particularly ``uncertain''.000 in 1998 (Trickett. in chicken possibly poses the greatest health risk in case of undercooking (IFST. namely. including food safety issues. feed conversion enhancers and anti-biotic treatments to increase or protect market yield and/or quality of . Hazards associated with the consumption of food can be classified into sources of risk. chemical and technological hazards. Microbiological hazards Microbiological hazards include all hazards caused by bacteria. 1997.

There are some potential risks to product quality with the technique. Some scientists claim that there is insufficient evidence to estimate the risks to public health and the environment of GM foods (Ford and Murphy. Unwanted chemical residues may arise due to inappropriate use or management. 1999). Clarke and Moran (1995) cite that technological advancements are usually controversial and it is difficult to predict how consumers will accept them.crop and livestock products. 1999). partly reflecting a limited understanding of the purpose and method of food irradiation (Miles and Frewer. Pretty. Barboza. Fisheries and Food (MAFF). technology has contributed multiple benefits in terms of food safety and increased food availability. Genetically modified (GM) foods became one of the biggest food safety concerns following the publication of a controversial study proving the possible health problems in rats fed with gene-altered potatoes (Gregoriadis. concern about high levels of chemical use and the implications for consumer health has led to the inclusion of chemical related risks in the concept of food safety (Wandel. 1998). including those which might arise from production carried out in conditions of general environmental pollution. 1999. 1999. concern that the use of growth-promoters in broiler chickens may reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics when used to treat human life threatening conditions among a population previously exposed to residual antibiotic dosage through the consumption of chicken meat (McKellar. 1999). Food with a high protein content like chicken may change in flavour and decrease in vitamin after irradiation (IFST. 1999). for example. 1998. 1994. 1995). 1999). A survey conducted by the UK Consumers Association in 1990 showed that over one-third of consumers did not favour the irradiation of food (Harris. demands that lack of evidence of negative impacts is not a . The use of irradiation technology is a case in point. Weiss. Pollack. There is. such as food irradiation and genetic modification of food. Smith and Riethmuller. Collins and Oddy. 1999. some bacteria are resistant to irradiation and these could limit the shelf life of irradiated food (FSAC. 1990). Meikle and Brown. in some cases due to operations carried out in a generally polluted environment. 173 Unintentional elements are likely to be unwanted residues from production processes. In general. 1993). Although the uses of both pesticide and the antibiotic are regulated in the UK by the Ministry of Agriculture. 1999. Older age groups in particular disapprove of the use of irradiation in food preservation (Ahmad. Chemicals may be widely used in the processing Food safety risk and distribution stages of the food supply chain to provide or preserve specific product features. 1999. The precautionary principle. Technological hazards Technological hazards refer to the possible negative consequences of technological advancements in food products. But it is not unusual for the public to show their concern about new technologies. Jacobs. however. Food products may purposely or unintentionally contain chemical elements. 1998. for example.

immediacy of effect. Food risk characteristics and risk perception Extensive studies have been conducted to associate the source of food-related risk with consumer risk perception. voluntariness of risk. knowledge about risk. It is these latter social interpretations of food risk which Slovic et al. 1995). and that social perception of risk is out of line with the technical assessment of risk. newness. characterized by the diversity of opinions expressed by scientists and other experts. This is the reason why consumer behaviour during periods of food scare is often judged by scientists and industrialists to be due to irrationality or to ignorance of the true facts (Lofstedt and Frewer. however.. further raises the sense of uncertainty about GM foods among a less scientifically informed public. that is where there is a technical risk. carrying the risk of negative consequences. such as severity of consequences. and in so doing account for the difference that emerges between the two definitions of risk. namely ``dread''. supported by balanced and informed debate. 1994). 1998). with the latter. however small.BFJ 103. 1993). and ``number of people exposed to the risk''. and possibly society as a whole. common-dread (Slovic. Greater knowledge. hazards with delayed adverse effects tend to be ``unknown'' to the public. and which form the basis of consumer concerns. It is important therefore that the scientific debate is translated for general consumption. the technical-based assessment of risk to produce the social perception of risk. . Consumers' reaction to the development of biotechnology in food production and subsequent acceptance of result may be affected by perception of both risks and benefits associated with the new technique and its applications (Frewer et al. It appears. (1980) have referred to as ``risk characteristics''. control over risk. Slovic (1987) further shows that some risk characteristics are correlated with one another across a wide range of hazards. chronic-catastrophic. 1987). Many consumers are convinced that GM technology will benefit suppliers rather than consumers.3 174 reason for adopting a technology if there is a reasonable chance that such impacts could arise. Hazards perceived to be voluntary tend to be judged controllable. Slovic and his colleagues suggest a set of risk characteristics to explain public perception. and in many cases amplify. These factors serve to modify. He suggests that three antecedent factors or attributes which influence risk perception have been identified in several studies. The continuing debate. Research has shown that much of the public's reaction to risk could be attributed to sensitivity not only to the technical but also to the social and psychological qualities of hazards (Slovic. with an emphasis on consumer education is a key determinant of consumer confidence in food safety. Most people have a limited understanding of GM technology because it is relatively new and complex (Miller and Huttner. that consumer risk perception of food safety is determined not so much by the hazard per se as with the social and psychological characteristics of the food hazard. ``unknown''.

likely delayed effects and causes of worry. 1994. inequitability. Raats and Shepherd. reflecting the degree to which people feel compromised by exposure to uncertain but potentially significant hazards without their consent and without potentially compensating benefit. Frewer et al. degree of dread. such as preparing and eating food at home. Miles et al. 1995). Perceptions of ``dread'' are modified by perception of control. Similarly. Recent research confirms that risk perceptions and attitudes are closely related to Slovic's three risk attributes (Sparks and Shepherd. (1995) cite that ``increasing perceptions of personal control may reduce perception of personal risks''. such as eating in restaurants. Wandel (1994) found that people perceive food related health risk as more dreadful if it is involuntary than if it is voluntary. With respect to food. In addition. high risk to future generations. Fife-Shaw and Rowe (1996) also include the variables such as harm to vulnerable groups.. James McCoy. For instance.Sandman (1987) grouped these social dimensions of risk under the broad Food safety risk title of ``outrage''. Subsequently. potential to cause serious harm to health. the benefits of which are perceived to accrue mainly to 175 meat producers and processors rather than to consumers. Dread Slovic used the factor of ``dread'' to capture such variables as uncontrollable. such as concern. Sandman has used this concept to help organisations formulate communication strategies which attempt to minimize the potential damage of outrage among customers and other stakeholders when an organization has misread public concern (Sandman. fearful. 1987). not easily reduced. likely effect on future generations. Starr (1985) reports that people accept risks from voluntary activities that may be 1. 1999. global catastrophic potential. These are discussed in turn. research shows that recent experience of the BSE crisis has been translated into a general distrust of GM technology. 1999). makes the risk easier to visualise and heightens the sense of risk. argues that this will continue to beset the efforts of . risk increasing. Sparks and Shepherd (1994) relate ``dread'' to a variety of variables. threat of disastrous consequences. a hazardous event. people associate greater risk with circumstances and practices which they perceive are controlled by others. fatal consequences. compared with situations in which they have perceived control. which is close in time or space. seriousness for future generations. and risk becoming more serious. For example. they are likely to demand greater protection from food risks if they have limited perceived control (HMSO. involuntary (Slovic. Miles.000 times as great as they would tolerate from involuntary hazards that provide the same level of benefits. 1996. 1993). Building on this. consumers may feel outrage that they are exposed to potential health risks by consuming unlabelled GM products. Moreover. information and choice. Mintel's senior consultant on consumer goods. people often perceive higher risk if they think that they are not well informed and their right to free choice is compromised (Walkley. 1999).

Raats and Shepherd (1996) also reported that chemical hazards such as pesticide and antibiotic residues which are perceived to be harmful and poisonous scored high on the ``dread'' factor. Indeed. 1995). and risk unknown to science. process or practice can breed complacency about the degree of risk. familiarity with a product. . 1995). and the more they want to see strict regulation to achieve the desired reduction in risk (Slovic. 1994). however improbable. and accuracy of own assessment are strongly correlated with the ``unknown'' factor. are attributed a moderate dread score due to their involuntary nature (Frewer et al. The beef sector collapsed immediately after evidence of a possible link between the BSE prion and CJD in humans (Latouche et al. such as GMOs in food.. Technological hazards. Miles (1999) argues that ``uncertainty'' regarding probability and identity of hazard is judged to be serious where people believe that risks are unknown to scientists or risk regulators. effect delayed. 1998). the higher is its perceived risk. and the reputation of organizations responsible for protecting people from harm. 1987). Fife-Shaw and Rowe (1996) add other variables. Conversely. With time. the perceived adequacy of government regulations to protect people's health. the severity of the consequences in many people's minds was sufficient to curtail beef consumption. Unknown Slovic (1987) relates the ``unknown'' factor to the variables of not observable. such as the characteristics of individuals or organizations responsible for the hazard. Sparks and Shepherd (1994) further show that variables of risks known to those exposed. tend to focus the mind because the consequences are so severe.. Generally. Research has shown that microbiological contamination such as Salmonella and Listeria are rated high on the ``dread'' factor due to their severe consequences (Sparks and Shepherd. Potentially fatal events.3 176 developing GM foods (Gregoriadis. new risk. or where they hide the risk information from the public. unknown to those exposed. and in the absence of return events or reminders. 1999). the more people want to see risk reduced. especially regarding the probability of occurrence. Sparks and Shepherd (1994) further support that ``dread'' is significant to public risk perception. the higher a hazard's score on the ``dread'' factor. Regulation and legislation help protect against this tendency. People tend to perceive that risks that are familiar to them are less than those that are unfamiliar (HMSO. risk known to science.BFJ 103. people very often attribute high risks to food products if they have less knowledge of chemical or technological processes. The dread factor reflects the observation that risk perception is shaped more by the severity of the consequences than by the probability of occurrence. In spite of repeated reassurances by Government that the probability of humans contracting new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) was extremely small. memories fade and in some cases complacency may increase the real rather than the perceived risk.

Large-scale consequences very often attract more attention in the media than individual smaller consequences (HMSO. Raats and Shepherd. However. Frewer and Shepherd (1999) report that media reports tend to emphasize the catastrophic potential of technology especially where risks are undefinable or unmeasurable. Similar findings have been obtained in several studies (e. the bigger the benefit. attempted to measure risk perception . the higher is the perceived risk. and are therefore. 177 1998). 1995). the greater the willingness to take risk (Wandel. Technological hazards often scored the highest on the ``unknown'' factor due to the perceived high level of uncertainty. Sparks and Shepherd. 1996)..It is apparent that tolerance of risk is positively correlated with perceived Food safety risk benefit. coli outbreak linked to contaminated meat products (The Guardian. where consumers perceive that health risks are insufficiently compensated for by potential benefits to them as consumers. Microbiological and technological hazards are likely to score particularly high on this factor because they have the potential to affect many people. Chemical hazards tend to be rated relatively high on the ``unknown'' factor because people view these as unnatural and unfamiliar. 1994). Consequently. not least because a greater proportion of the population will feel outraged by the exposure and seek redress. Extent Slovic (1987) labels the third factor as ``the number of people exposed to the risk''. (1988) argue that massive media coverage is more likely to heighten the perception of risk and demand for action to alleviate perceived risk. The rejection of GM food technology compares interestingly with the rapid uptake of mobile phones. This appears to be the case with GM technology. For example. Society is not willing to accept risks that affect a great number of people. 1999). Many studies have.g. The aforementioned research has shown that microbiological hazards tend to be scored low on the ``unknown'' factor due to high overall perceived knowledge. They tend to expect low rather than high benefits of new technology (Frewer et al. however.. For instance. the greater the extent. 1994). The potential spread of a hazard is correlated with the factors of dread and unknown. (1995) point out that people very often link benefit and risk to specific applications of technology. where users perceive benefits which appear to compensate for possible health risks. referred to here as ``extent'' for convenience. Risk perception and purchase likelihood The preceding discussion focused on the definition of risk and risk perception in the context of potentially hazardous and harmful consequences to consumers. Frewer et al. 1994. Kasperson et al. less willing to accept risk where such benefits are unproven or uncertain (Frewer at al. there is no consensus on the definition of this factor. a call for food hygiene training for butchers and improved hygiene in abattoirs was raised immediately after 21 pensioners in Lanarkshire died in an E.

Mitchell. once a risk has been perceived in a purchase situation. more to do with a product under-performing than being unsafe. and separate ego loss into psychological and social factors. 1999). Generally. Roselius. 1967b. In the context of service marketing. Tse. Cox. comprising the probability of a loss occurring and the magnitude or seriousness of the loss once it has occurred. Such research focuses on outcomes that are more disappointing than they are threatening to consumer welfare. set against the cost incurred to attain the goal. He argues that this multi-dimensional analysis significantly improves the understanding of risk perception (Mitchell. and psychosocial. Damage to health is one such consequent loss. Mitra et al. Cox (1967a) further defined perceived risk as a function of subjective uncertainty perceived by the consumer and the consequence of not satisfying the goals of the purchase decision. Bauer (1967) was among the first to propose that it is not the objectivity of risk that motivates consumer behaviour.3 178 in a broader marketing context (e. Mitchell (1998a) identified five components of risk perception. Bauer. the two-component model of risk perception has been adopted by researchers. In turn. time. 1967. For example. time. some kind of consequent loss would be perceived if a particular goal is unlikely to be achieved. These included so-called functional goals. social. The concept comprises a set of interrelated multidimensional components. performance. Kaplan et al. performance. performance goals and psychosocial goals. namely: physical. (1999) included six components ± physical. The consumer may be unhappy but is not necessarily exposed to a hazard. physical and social types of loss in the study of consumer risk perception in the UK wine market. Roselius (1971) identified three types of potential loss in his framework for perceived risk. 1971. Risk components have been measured in scalar quantities of low through to high in order to reflect perceptions (for example. He argued that. 1992. (1974) add performance loss to this framework. Taylor. The concept of risk perception as a multi-dimensional phenomenon with the overall risk subdivided into various losses has been explored by a number of researchers. 1967b.g. financial. 1988. namely: hazards which are dangerous to health. 1974. In a study of predominantly non-safety consumer risk perception in grocery retailing. Mitchell and Greatorex. Mitra et al. 1999) where the risky or uncertain outcome in a purchase decision is that a product does not perform according to expectations.. there seems to be some reasonable evidence that subsequent consumer behaviour is shaped by this risk perception. Cunningham. Agrawal. but subjective impressions of it. money and time wasted for replacing the product. functional. but exclude time loss. Mitchell and Greatorex (1988) concentrate on non-safety financial. in some cases either multiplied . 1998b). and loss of ego or self-esteem when the product fails. 1999. financial. even if consumers could calculate correctly the risk involved. Yavas. 1995. and psychological ± as does Tse (1999) in his study of consumer perception of product safety in electronic goods.BFJ 103.

1968. permanently or temporarily. as shown in Table I. convenience. they often develop strategies to reduce risk that enable them to act with relative confidence and ease in situations when the outcomes and consequences cannot be anticipated (Bauer. that consumers show a tendency to avoid food products which are in their view potentially contaminated. The measurement of perceived risk in this marketing context can provide a useful framework for assessing the link between food safety and risk perception with respect to potentially hazardous and harmful consequences to consumers. Components of perceived risk associated with food safety . 1967a) or added (Lanzetta and Driscoll. Risk reduction and purchase behaviour Where consumers perceive risk. 1973) to Food safety risk derive an estimate of total perceived risk. Cox. namely to: (1) stop. are safe to eat. and are free of contamination and therefore free of worry to the consumer. the goal is to acquire food products which 179 have the desired consumption attributes. in an empirical study of residue-free produce. In a similar context. the purchase of offending product. Perceived risk component Physical loss Implication Negative health impacts on consumers. Correspondingly. providing evidence of a negative relationship between risk perception and purchase likelihood. the uncertainty of achieving food safety goals may lead to some possible consequent losses for consumers. chemical or technological factors The taste and/or nutritional value of food product is adversely affected by the food hazard The cost of replacing the spoiled food. Both studies highlight the importance of the subjective nature of risk perceptions in purchase behaviour. associated with microbiological. effort in repurchasing and time lost due to illness Poor food choice leading to social embarrassment if the food product is contaminated Worries or concerns experienced by consumers that consumers are exposed to safety risk Performance loss Financial loss Time loss Social loss Psychological loss Table I. 1967. Huang (1993) reports. Roselius (1971) observed that consumers tend to adopt one of four broad actions to reduce perceived risk in a purchase. Recent research shows that risk perception and purchase behaviour are causally linked: the former is an important explanatory variable of the latter.(Cunningham. such as adopting a meat free diet. associated with decline in food safety. Bettman. 1967a). paying for medical treatment or loss of income due to sickness Time. Regarding food safety. Eom (1994) confirms that consumers refrained from produce perceived to contain pesticide in order to reduce health risks.

Risk aversion is likely to be heightened in the case of food safety-related risk because the severity of the consequences to the consumer are much greater than purchasing risk associated with product under-performance. Most purchasers appear to be risk averters. 1998a). They add consumer guides. trial and special offers to the previous list. or to one for which there is greater tolerance. endorsement. Roselius (1971) developed the notion of risk relieving devices and actions which consumers choose according to preference and to the type of risk involved where consumers have to absorb the unresolved risk. The greater the perception of risk in terms of either probability or consequences. but this may not be . motives and perceived risks (Mitchell. 1999). however. (3) shift from one product to another similar type of product with less perceived risk. He identified 11 risk relievers: brand loyalty. This is especially the case with respect to growing concerns about food safety when consumers seek good quality food at affordable prices. Mitchell and Greatorex (1990) proposed 14 risk relievers relevant for various food items. that consumers will reduce purchases of an offending product once a possible food hazard is perceived. and the way in which food suppliers might facilitate this in terms of quality assurance and information. For their part. indicating that the perceived risk associated with a particular product is tolerable and no greater than alternatives. This suggests the way in which consumers commonly seek risk relief. but exclude government and private testing (see Table II). and reliable and helpful information when food scares occur (Pugh. Erevelles (1993) shows that consumers generally perceived a higher price to be associated with higher financial risk. It appears. store image. beyond those identified above. Consumers may be willing to trade off risk against a discounted price. Changes over time in technology and society are. should the product not perform according to expectations. the greater is the likely action to reduce the risk. convenience goods. product information. money-back guarantee. therefore. It is likely. expensive model. government testing. high food hygiene standards in store.3 180 (2) reduce the purchase of the offending product and thereby reduce the exposure to perceived risk. likely to impact on consumer attitudes towards risk and the range and selection of risk relievers. cheaper choice. and shopping for goods and services. such as switching from beef to poultry. or (4) continue to purchase and absorb the unresolved risk. free sample.BFJ 103. however. more often motivated to avoid mistakes than to maximize utility in purchasing (Mitchell. shopping around. that major food multiples very often use price reduction or special offers to support sales and maintain purchases during periods of poor consumer confidence in a product. such as eating less meat. private testing. 1990). Continuing surveillance of risk perception is therefore necessary to accommodate changes in consumers' needs. and word of mouth. major brand image.

In this respect. which. It is unlikely. Of course. during periods of heightened concern. some consumers are willing to pay marginally higher prices for quality assurance and hence reduced risk in food. 1998). But. product traceability has been a key issue in . Some are willing to pay extra for the perceived reduced risks associated with the consumption of organic food (Latouche et al. this assumes that food safety is a variable that distinguishes products. however. can become a discriminatory factor and one for which some purchasers may be willing or able to pay. Airlines. cooking instructions and so forth Guidelines or information about food hygiene and food safety Food products used on a trial basis before buying Friends or family recommendations Endorsement or testimonials from a celebrity Table II. Indeed. b Adapted from Mitchell and Greatorex (1990) the case where the characteristic associated with higher price is that of safety assurance. for example.. should not be the case. safety. especially during periods of safety concern.Risk reducing method Brand loyaltya Brand imagea Quality assurance b Implication Same brand bought because of satisfaction in the past Well-known or reputable brand Labelling or traceability to reassure consumers of the product quality and source Food product tested and/or approved by an government laboratory or related institution Food product tested and approved by a private testing company High quality associated with high priced product a Food safety risk Government testinga Private testinga Expensive product Price reduction Store imagea Shopping a b a 181 Money back guarantee Money back for spoiled food Special offer for a particular product during food scare Reputation of the store Shop around to compare product features on several brands in several stores Labels include product information such as ingredients. whether for food or travel. under general circumstances. it is doubtful whether discount pricing is an appropriate strategy either from the buyer's or from the seller's viewpoint in the absence of other risk reducing actions. Information is another important risk reliever. nutrition values. do not explicitly use flight safety as a distinguishing characteristic. Given the perceived consequences of unsafe food. Risk reducing strategies associated with food safety Labellingb Consumer guide/leaflet)b Free samplea Word of mouth Endorsements a a a Notes: Adapted from Roselius (1971). to be a sustainable basis for product discrimination. Taylor (1974) showed that consumers wish to acquire more information if there are uncertain outcomes of purchase decisions.

the literature support the contention that. consumer risk perception tends to give greater weight to the perceived potential severity of unhealthy food than the probability of exposure. 182 Figure 1.BFJ 103. they draw on a range of risk reducing strategies such as purchasing branded or quality assured products or seeking advice or endorsements from trusted sources. In this context. tend to fall on deaf or hostile ears. These different sources of risk appear to be associated with different risk characteristics or antecedents. there is a negative correlation between perception of risk and purchase likelihood. The sources of risk tend to be associated with different scores on these antecedent factors. whereas technology and chemical hazards score relatively highest in terms of the ``unknown'' factor. as it is influenced by food safety (Figure 1). Conceptual model of consumer food purchase relating to food safety . 1997). Conceptual model of consumer food purchase relating to food safety The preceding review of research literature can be used to construct a conceptual model for consumer food purchase decision making. given the nature of food safety risk. Communications. which describe risk as a very small technical probability. although they may not fully understand them. namely ``dread''. ``unknown'' and ``extent''. The major sources of food safety risk relate to microbiological. shifting or postponing the purchase of the offending product where this is possible. Where consumers face unresolved risk. uncertain characteristics of food safety risks. It is also apparent that consumers modify their purchasing decisions in order to relieve perceived risk: by reducing. This is one area where more research is justified.3 the wake of the BSE crisis. For example. microbiological risk scores relatively high in terms of dread. In particular. other things being equal. and consistent with the theory of risk. risk perceptions are heightened by the ``unknown''. Empirical evidence during food scares and. Furthermore. that is the ability to identify and determine the credentials of the farm and the carcass from which a particular cut of meat came (Whitworth and Simpson. the perception of food safety risk is influenced by a combination of perceptions of the degree of exposure to a hazard and the consequences of this exposure. chemical and technological factors. which strongly influence risk perception. to a lesser extent. It does appear that consumers are able to distinguish these sources of risk.

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