Managing food safety in an era of far flung, global supply chains is a complex business. International trading partners can be prematurely blamed for contamination that their producers did not cause. Regardless, the public response can be devastating to their profit margins.
Our research, conducted before the most recent uptake in public interest in food safety, considered consumers’ preferences for private versus public protection. Suppose one could test on their own or have the FDA take care of it. What would the consumer want and how does this inform food safety policy as well as other areas where threats to the food supply might arise?
Based on an internet based survey conducted in the fall of 2007, consumers prefer programs and products that allow them to test for food borne contamination. The differences amount to a third more in annual willingness to pay for private plans over increased FDA inspectors.
Originally conducted with support from CREATE, the Homeland Security Center at the University of Southern California, jointly with Dr. Carol Mansfield and Professor Aaron Strong, the findings are relevant for current concerns over how to respond to declining federal budgets—encouraging private testing alternatives would seem to be what consumers want.
- Working paper, Smith, Mansfield and Strong, September 2011, “Do Consumers Want More Personal Control of Their Food’s Safety and What Does that Mean for Measuring the Benefits of Food Safety Programs?”
- NY Times, June 2011, “The Poster Plant of Health Food Can Pack Disease Risks.”
- MSNBC/REUTERS, June 2011, “Majority of Germans Unhappy with Handling of E.coli Outbreak.”