Consumer trust in the Australian food system – The everyday erosive impact of food labelling

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Tonkin, Emma
Webb, Trevor
Coveney, John David
Meyer, Samantha B
Wilson, Annabelle
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© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.
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Elsevier Ltd.
Consumer trust in food system actors is foundational for ensuring consumer confidence in food safety. As food labelling is a direct communication between consumers and food system actors, it may influence consumer perceptions of actor trustworthiness. This study explores the judgements formed about the trustworthiness of the food system and its actors through labelling, and the expectations these judgements are based on. In-depth, semi-structured interviews with 24 Australian consumers were conducted. Theoretical sampling focussed on shopping location, dietary requirements, rurality, gender, age and educational background. The methodological approach used (adaptive theory) enabled emerging data to be examined through the lens of a set of guiding theoretical concepts, and theory reconsidered in light of emerging data. Food labelling acted as a surrogate for personal interaction with industry and government for participants. Judgements about the trustworthiness of these actors and the broader food system were formed through interaction with food labelling and were based on expectations of both competence and goodwill. Interaction with labelling primarily reduced trust in actors within the food system, undermining trust in the system as a whole. Labelling has a role as an access point to the food system. Access points are points of vulnerability for systems, where trust can be developed, reinforced or broken down. For the participants in this study, in general labelling demonstrates food system actors lack goodwill and violate their fiduciary responsibility. This paper provides crucial insights for industry and policy actors to use this access point to build, rather than undermine, trust in food systems.
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Consumer, Labeling, Food, Trust, Policy
Tonkin, E., Webb, T., Coveney, J., Meyer, S. B., & Wilson, A. M. (2016). Consumer trust in the Australian food system – The everyday erosive impact of food labelling. Appetite, 103, 118–127.