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Principles of foodservice ethics: a general review

Amit Sharma (School of Hospitality Management, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA and University of Johannesburg, South Africa)
Phillip M. Jolly (School of Hospitality Management, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Robert Magneson Chiles (Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Robin B. DiPietro (School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA)
Angeline Jaykumar (Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, India)
Hema Kesa (Department of Hospitality Management, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Heather Monteiro (Department of Research, Hickory Ridge Group, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
Kevin Roberts (Department of Hospitality Management, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Laure Saulais (EAC, Laval University, Quebec, Canada)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 5 November 2021

Issue publication date: 3 January 2022




Moral aspects of food are gaining increased attention from scholars due to growing complexity of the food system. The foodservice system is a complex arrangement of stakeholders, yet has not benefited from similar scholarly attention on the moral facets. This gap is of significance given that the foodservice system has increased in importance with the larger proportion of food consumed in foodservice environments. This paper aims to focus on the foodservice system with the goal of applying moral perspectives associated with the theoretical discussion on the principles of food ethics.


Food ethics is described within the theoretical framework of three principles, namely, autonomy, justice and well-being. These ethical principles are reviewed in context of the foodservice system comprised of food distribution (supply chains), preparation (foodservice establishments) and consumption (consumer demand). The review also includes international perspectives on foodservice system ethics to assess relativism (versus universalism) of moral issues.


As the foodservice system increases in complexity, greater discussion is needed on the ethics of this system. This study observes that ignoring ethical principles can negatively impact the ability of consumers, businesses and communities to make informed choices, and on their well-being. Alternatively, a focus on understanding the role of food ethics can provide an anchor for research, practice and policy development to strengthen the foodservice system. While these moral principles are universal truths, they will require relative introspection globally, based on local experiences.


This paper presents a moral principle-based description of food ethics that incorporates the various components of the expanding foodservice system.



This study was conducted as part of the lead author’s Faculty Fellowship activities at the Rock Ethics Institute, Penn State University.


Sharma, A., Jolly, P.M., Chiles, R.M., DiPietro, R.B., Jaykumar, A., Kesa, H., Monteiro, H., Roberts, K. and Saulais, L. (2022), "Principles of foodservice ethics: a general review", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 135-158.



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