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Understanding and (dis)trusting food assurance schemes: Consumer confidence and the 'knowledge fix'

By Sally Eden, Christopher Bear and Gordon Walker

Abstract

This paper uses evidence from focus groups with consumers in England to consider how consumers understand and evaluate a range of proxies or intermediary organisations that offer assurance about food and consumer products, particularly voluntary certification schemes. This addresses the current concern in developed economies about providing information in order to reconnect consumers with food producers and to support moves towards more local, fairly traded and sustainable production. However, we show that such a ‘knowledge fix’ approach of providing information may not reconnect consumers so easily. Participants found it particularly difficult to work out what certification involved and what kinds of organisations were providing assurance. They built vernacular typologies and comparative judgements that did not necessarily identify or prioritise ‘independent’ third-party certification as the gold standard, not least because of the practical difficulties of monitoring complex supply chains, and expressed confusion and scepticism about how well food assurance schemes could work in practice. Our results therefore problematise the knowledge fix urged in the literature and emphasise instead the need to better understand how consumers make sense of assurance information in different contexts

Topics: H1, HF
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:http://orca.cf.ac.uk:37203
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