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CONSUMER BEHAVIOR, TRUST OF INFORMATION, AND RISK PERCEPTION OF FOOD SAFETY EVENTS pp. 63-85 $100.00
Authors:  Sayed Saghaian, Dep. of Agricultural Economics, Univ of Kentucky and Jonathan D. Shepherd
Abstract:
Media attention devoted to recent food safety events has increased consumers’
awareness and further complicated the marketing aspects of agricultural products.
Recently, E. coli outbreaks in ground beef and fresh spinach and Salmonella-tainted fresh
tomatoes have captured news headlines nationwide. Economic losses associated with
these events can destroy brand images and affect entire industries. The life cycle of a
food safety event is a dynamic process in which consumers often change consumption
patterns during the scare, returning to pre-scare consumption patterns after the event. It is
unclear how long the cycle takes or what signals are most effective to persuade
consumers to return to their pre-scare behavior. Many factors differentiate food safety
risks from other risks. Complete reduction of risk is not possible as food is essential for
life. Food safety attributes are associated with credence goods. Credence goods are
products for which consumers rely on brand images, labels or testimonial advertising to
form opinions. Understanding how consumers conceptualize food safety risks is essential
for effective strategic response plans. The data for this research was obtained from two
surveys. One survey concerned fresh produce while the second focused on meat products.
The SPARTA model, based on the Theory of Planned Behavior, is used to determine the
atmosphere impact of factors that influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. The
Theory of Planned Behavior has been used in many studies that analyze behaviors
associated with risk. Of particular interest is to determine if consumer response can be
generalized across products. The result of this research indicates that consumers have
clearly-defined levels of trust associated with different entities that would be potential
sources of food safety information. More specifically, consumers trust doctors and
university scientists over media and processors. Hypothetical food safety events are used
to analyze their impact on food purchasing decisions. In general, a food safety event
occurring in the fresh produce market seems to affect purchasing decisions more than the
same food safety event occurring in the meat market. Processors, animal welfare organizations, and political groups were all identified as being non-trustworthy. The
majority of respondents indicated that the risk of suffering health consequences from a
food safety event was negligible. Typical media outlets such as the Internet, newspapers,
and television news were all identified as being important information sources in the
wake of a food safety crisis. Agribusiness firms can use these results to form a base
strategic response plan for food safety events. 


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CONSUMER BEHAVIOR, TRUST OF INFORMATION, AND RISK PERCEPTION OF FOOD SAFETY EVENTS pp. 63-85