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Establishing confidence in food safety: is traceability a solution in consumers’ eyes?

Airong Zhang, Aditi Mankad, Anoma Ariyawardana
Journal für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit 2020 v.15 no.2 pp. 99-107
cities, consumer attitudes, farm to fork, food industry, food safety, food supply chain, foods, surveys, traceability, willingness to pay
Consumers have become increasingly concerned about food safety due to numerous food scandals and incidents over the past two decades. Consequently, they demand to be informed of the processes involved along the food supply chain. Employing a traceability system, tracing food from ‘farm to fork’, has been embraced by the food industries and governments as an important tool to restore and increase consumers’ confidence in food safety. However, there is limited research examining consumers’ perceptions of, and confidence in, the food traceability system to fulfil the role of ensuring food safety. To bridge the knowledge gap, we conducted an online survey of 489 consumers from three major Australian cities. The results suggested that although participants had a great desire to know how their food was produced and handled, it was their understanding of, and confidence in, food traceability systems that strongly predicted their willingness to pay (WTP) for having their food traced. Participants also indicated that, in comparison to locally produced food products, it was more important to have imported food products traced. However, paradoxically, the information provided by the traceability system of imported food products was less trusted. The results highlight that, in order to use the food traceability system to gain consumer trust in food safety, it is critical to inform consumers how the system works to build their confidence in the system.