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Consumer perceptions of food quality and safety and their relation to traceability

Wendy van Rijswijk (University of Dundee, Dundee, UK and University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK)
Lynn J. Frewer (Wageningen University, Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Wageningen, The Netherlands)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 26 September 2008




The research presented here aims to gain understanding of consumers' perceptions of the concepts of food quality and safety, two concepts that play an important role in how consumers perceive food, and that are used in decision making.


Qualitative semi‐structured interviews (n=163 consumers) were held in four European countries (Germany, France, Italy and Spain). Consumers' own definitions of the two concepts of food quality and safety were examined, together with the perceived interrelationship between quality and safety, and whether these concepts were linked to improved food chain traceability.


The results indicate that most consumers see food quality and food safety as interlinked concepts, which becomes evident in their partly overlapping definitions of the two concepts. Consumers believe both food safety and quality are important to food in general, but pay relatively more attention to food quality when purchasing a product. Traceability was linked not only to food safety, but also to food quality in the mind of the consumer.

Research limitations/implications

Future research on consumer perceptions of food quality and safety will need to take account of the observation that these concepts are strongly related in consumers' minds, and therefore cannot be easily separated in explaining consumer choices.


Instead of investigating consumer perceptions of food quality and safety in relation to specific products, consumer perceptions of food quality and food safety in general, and how these were related to each other, were studied. Further understanding was gained of how consumers might use these concepts in judgements about food, which, in turn may influence their purchase decisions.



van Rijswijk, W. and Frewer, L.J. (2008), "Consumer perceptions of food quality and safety and their relation to traceability", British Food Journal, Vol. 110 No. 10, pp. 1034-1046.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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