Consumer perceptions, behaviour and microbial food safety; implications for Listeria control

L.J. Frewer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


In order to understand fully the problemof food safety linked to the occurrence of listeriosis, it is important to considerhowconsumers respond to food safety issues, interms of their psychology and howthis determines their behaviour, for example in relation to food preparation behaviour. An important research objective relates to consumer activities after food purchase.Risk perceptiondetermines howconsumers react to different types of risks. Very generally, risks which are perceived to be unnatural in origin and involuntarily imposed onthe individualwho is exposed to themare perceived to be more threatening.Microbiological risks are perceived to be “naturally occurring” and, in the case of food safety risks, highly controllable, and so are not a focus of consumer concern. In addition, consumers tend to exhibit an “optimistic bias” in relation tomicrobiological food risks, which means that food safety information tends to be perceived as applying tomore vulnerable, consumers inthe population.Research suggests that consumers are reasonably knowledgeable about safe food preparation practices, but that this knowledge isnot always applied inpractice.Food preparationtends to be a habitual behaviour,which is difficult to change. Introducing food safetymessages during food preparation (for example, in recipe development) tends to activate existing food safety knowledge, as does the inclusion ofmaterials designed to elicit affective responses to food safety issues, for example disgust. Some groups within the population are more vulnerable than others, and targeting risk communication messages to the needs of these groups is particularly relevant. It is argued that,whilst consumer observation studies, combined withmodelling of critical control points in food preparation, might indicate the riskiest behaviours in terms of Listeria, this information should be combined with activation of general food safety knowledge if an effective approach to reducing the incidence of food borne disease is to be developed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the ISOPOL XVII International Symposium on Problems of Listeriosis, 05-08 May 2010, Porto, Portugal
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventISOPOL XVII International Symposium on Problems of Listeriosis, Porto, Portugal -
Duration: 5 May 20108 May 2010


ConferenceISOPOL XVII International Symposium on Problems of Listeriosis, Porto, Portugal


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