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Food safety risk: consumer food purchase models

By Ruth Mo Wah Yeung


Recent high profile food safety incidents in the United Kingdom have shaken consumer confidence in food products. Consumer perception of risk is seen to be very relevant to food safety issues. The impact of this perceived risk on purchase behaviour is also critical to the development of risk management strategies by authorities responsible for public health and the food industry. Focusing on fresh chicken meat products, this study explored the relationship between food risk characteristics, consumer perception of food safety related risk, consumer purchase behaviour and actions that can be taken to reduce the exposure to food risk. Following an extensive literature review, an exploratory study in the form of face-toface interviews was carried out to clarify the main concerns of food hazards, and to identify the items of perceived consequent loss and risk reducing strategies adopted by consumers. The findings were verified through a quantitative survey of 200 respondents. The data was presented in the form of Structural Equation Modelling, and analysed by the LISREL 8.30 statistical package. The results showed that consumer risk perception was affected by a range of risk characteristics, such as consumer concern about the severity of the food risk, and the potential long-term adverse effect on future generation and environment. The main elements of perceived loss associated with food safety were health, financial, time, lifestyle and taste losses, and these were shown to have a negative effect on purchase likelihood. Two other risk characteristics namely, perceived knowledge and own control of the food risk were found to be linked directly and positively to consumer purchase likelihood. Risk reducing strategies such as branded product, product quality assurance and product information adopted by consumers were identified and found to be consistent with the marketing strategies used by the food industry. These risk-reducing strategies have a negative relationship with consumer risk perception. This study presented empirical evidence for characterising types of food risks and explains how food risks and risk reducing strategies affect consumer risk perception as well as purchase likelihood. Consequently, two quantitative consumer food purchase models were developed. These models can help the government and the food industry to identify key factors to develop systematic strategies for risk management and risk communication in order to allocate resources efficiently and effectively. They can also use these models to measure the effectiveness of their risk management policy in the times of concern about food safety. This study recommends further research to apply these models in other types of food products and other types of risk, such as chemical risk, and technological risk, in particular for those risks which are beyond the control of consumers. The differences in risk perception between cultures and socio-economic groupings should be explored further. This is a valid topic for further research and provides potential benefits for consumers and food industry as a whole

Topics: Food hazards, Morris, Joe (supervisor)
Publisher: Cranfield University at Silsoe
Year: 2002
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

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