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The nutritional and toxicological value of organic vegetables: Consumer perception versus scientific evidence

Christine Hoefkens (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Wim Verbeke (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Joris Aertsens (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Koen Mondelaers (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
John Van Camp (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 26 September 2009

Abstract

Purpose

The present study aims to explore and compare consumer perception and scientific evidence related to food quality and food safety aspects of organic versus conventional vegetables.

Design/methodology/approach

Primary data on consumer perception were gathered in 2006‐2007 through a consumer survey with Flemish adults (n=529) and compared with scientific evidence from literature. Consumers of organic and conventional vegetables were selected by means of a convenience sampling procedure. Subjects were asked to complete a self‐administered questionnaire concerning the perception of the nutritional and toxicological value of organic relative to conventional vegetables. Data processing and analysis included descriptive analysis (frequency distributions), data reduction (Cronbach's alpha test, factor analysis), bivariate analysis (correlations, t‐test, ANOVA) and multivariate analysis (stepwise multiple regression).

Findings

It was found that organic vegetables are perceived as containing less contaminants and more nutrients, and as such, being healthier and safer compared to conventional vegetables. However, not enough evidence is currently available in the literature to support or refute such a perception, indicating a certain mismatch between consumer perception and scientific evidence. The gap between perception and evidence is larger among older consumers with children. The perception is stronger when the consumption frequency is higher, but is independent of gender, place of residence (rural or urban), education and income level. Also non‐users, on average, perceive that organic vegetables have a nutritional and toxicological advantage over conventional vegetables.

Research limitations/implications

A non‐probability convenience sampling method was applied which limits generalisation of the findings beyond the sample characteristics.

Originality/value

This paper is original in comparing consumer perception and scientific facts related to both nutritional and safety aspects of organic versus conventional vegetables.

Keywords

Citation

Hoefkens, C., Verbeke, W., Aertsens, J., Mondelaers, K. and Van Camp, J. (2009), "The nutritional and toxicological value of organic vegetables: Consumer perception versus scientific evidence", British Food Journal, Vol. 111 No. 10, pp. 1062-1077. https://doi.org/10.1108/00070700920992916

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited