Graphic examples showing consumer distrust
Over recent decades, most Western European countries have witnessed growing public unease about the safety of modern methods of food production. European consumers now worry about an extensive range of food related issues: Salmonella , BSE, the use of agrochemicals in farming, genetic modification and food additives, to name a few examples. (Hansen et al., 2003).
In order to restore consumers’ confidence in food safety, the SAFE FOODS project is designing a new Integrated Risk Analysis Approach for food. The new Risk Analysis model will include, among others, the knowledge developed by social scientists regarding how consumers perceive food risk management, the factors that influence the trust in food safety and how these findings can contribute to improve consumer confidence.
As mentioned by Houghton et al. (submitted), there has been limited investigation of the factors influencing perceptions, attitudes and behaviour of what constitutes best practice in risk management. If a systematic understanding of what consumers perceive to be best practice in risk management can be incorporated into the practice of risk analysis, this should ultimately lead to increased confidence in food risk management and the safety of food, and help to restore public trust in institutions with responsibility for consumer protection in the agri-food sector.
Consequently, one approach to fulfill the objective of improving consumer confidence is to gain more knowledge about consumers’ perceptions of how food hazards are managed. This can be done through consumer research.