Consumer responses to risk-benefit information about food

H. van Dijk

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Communication about the healthiness of consuming different food products has typically involved either health messages about the associated risks or benefits. In reality, consumption decisions often involve consumers “trading-off” the risks and benefits associated with the consumption of a particular food product. If consumers are to make informed choices about food consumption, they may need to simultaneously understand both risk and benefit information associated with consuming different foods. However, it is not known how this potentially conflicting information can best be communicated. Effective risk-benefit communication is also important because, increasingly, risk assessment and regulatory decision-making is focused on risk and benefit associated with a specific food issue, which will also need to be communicated to consumers. This thesis therefore examines consumer responses to information about both risks and benefits associated with food, in order to provide insights into effective ways to communicate this information. For this purpose, three lines of research are explored: (1) consumer perceptions and responses to integrated risk-benefit metrics, (2) potential barriers to effective risk-benefit communication, and (3) consumer responses to communication about risk management practices associated with food hazards.
In Chapter 2 consumer preferences regarding several integrated risk-benefit metrics describing the combined impact of risks and benefits associated with food consumption on health are qualitatively explored. Chapter 3 examines consumer perceptions of quality-adjusted-life-years (QALYs) as a tool for describing the combined impact of risks and benefits associated with food consumption, and in Chapter 4 it is examined whether integrated risk-benefit information in terms of QALYs can facilitate informed decision making for consumers, including how this information can best be presented. The research regarding potential barriers to effective risk-benefit communication focuses on optimism regarding risks and benefits associated with food consumption (Chapter 5), and on the role of initial attitudes on the occurrence of negativity effects after the provision of balanced risk-benefit information (Chapter 6). Finally, the impact of information about risk management practices associated with food hazards on consumer perceptions of food risk management quality are examined (Chapter 7).
Overall, the results of this thesis provide useful insights for the development of effective risk-benefit communication, including the communication of information about integrated risk-benefit assessments, and for the development of effective ways to communicate about risk management practices associated with food hazards.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Frewer, Lynn, Promotor
  • Fischer, Arnout, Co-promotor
  • van Kleef, Ellen, Co-promotor
Award date14 Dec 2010
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789085858003
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • consumer attitudes
  • food consumption
  • communication
  • consumer information
  • food preferences
  • food safety
  • decision making
  • consumer behaviour
  • risk-benefit analysis
  • risk management

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