To read this content please select one of the options below:

Food fraud and consumers’ choices in the wake of the horsemeat scandal

Lara Agnoli (School of Wine and Spirits Business, Groupe ESC Dijon-Bourgogne, Dijon, France)
Roberta Capitello (Department of Business Administration, University of Verona, Verona, Italy)
Maria De Salvo (Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Catania, Catania, Italy)
Alberto Longo (School of Biological Sciences, UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health (NI), Gibson Institute, Institute for Global food Security, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK AND Basque Center for Climate Change, Pais Vasco, Spain)
Marco Boeri (Health Preference Assessment Group, RTI International, North Carolina, USA AND UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health (NI), Gibson Institute, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 August 2016




In 2012, the European food industry was hit by a food fraud: horsemeat was found in pre-prepared foods, without any declaration on the package. This is commonly referred to as the “horsemeat scandal”. The purpose of this paper is to investigate consumers’ preferences across Europe for a selected ready meal, ready to heat (RTH) fresh lasagne, to consider whether the effects of potential food frauds on consumers’ choices can be mitigated by introducing enhanced standards of RTH products.


An online survey was administered to 4,598 consumers of RTH lasagne in six European countries (Republic of Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Norway), applying discrete choice experiments to estimate consumers’ willingness to pay for enhanced food safety standards and highlight differences between countries.


Many similarities across countries emerged, as well as some differences. Consumers in Europe are highly concerned with the authenticity of the meat in ready meals and strongly prefer to know that ingredients are nationally sourced. Strong regional differences in price premiums exist for enhanced food safety standards.


This research adds relevant insights in the analysis of consumers’ reaction to food fraud, providing practical guidelines on the most appropriate practices that producers should adopt and on the information to reduce food risk perception among consumers. This would prove beneficial for the food processing industry and the European Union. The survey is based on a representative sample of European consumers making this the largest cross-country study of this kind.



This research is part of the output of the project STARTEC – “Decision Support Tools to ensure safe, tasty and nutritious Advanced Ready-To-Eat foods for healthy and vulnerable Consumers”, funded by the EC, the Framework Programme 7 (Grant No: 289262(. Alberto Longo and Marco Boeri wish to acknowledge funding from: the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland MRC Grant No. MR/K023241/1∼ the Financial Aid Programme for Researchers 2014 of BIZKAIA: TALENT “Transportation Policies: Emissions Reductions, Public Health Benefits, and Acceptability”∼ and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness through Grant No. ECO2014-52587-R.


Agnoli, L., Capitello, R., De Salvo, M., Longo, A. and Boeri, M. (2016), "Food fraud and consumers’ choices in the wake of the horsemeat scandal", British Food Journal, Vol. 118 No. 8, pp. 1898-1913.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles