Two sides to every food safety story : factors influencing consumer trust of online food safety information

Hardy, Claire and Sillence, Elizabeth (2013) Two sides to every food safety story : factors influencing consumer trust of online food safety information. In: IAFP European Symposium on Food Safety, 2013-06-15 - 2013-06-17, Marseille, France.

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Introduction: There is growing interest in the raw milk debate, with increasing numbers of websites dedicated to discussing the facts around this issue. However, little is known about how people use the Internet to seek trusted information about consuming dairy products. Purpose: To carry out a psychological investigation to better understand how consumers search for information about milk on the Internet, and identify the factors which influence consumers' trust in websites. Methods: An innovative Internet café-style research method was employed, whereby 7 ordinary (neither propastuerised or pro-raw) milk consumers were invited to attend a 2.5 hour session. After a period of free Internet searching in which participants’ Internet movements were logged, participants were directed to eight specific web sites dedicated to the milk debate - half pro-pasturisation and half pro-raw milk – which varied in terms of provider, content, and design features. Group discussions were held to explore trust and mistrust of the websites. Results: The free search Internet logs showed 30 unique sites (6 were dairy industry sites, 9 were online media sites, and 5 were social media sites). Group discussions revealed two key factors: 1) website design, and 2) a balanced argument. Websites that were poorly designed were seen as “amateurish” and disliked by consumers. High visual appeal was important in generating credibility but could still be undermined by the presentation of a heavily biased perspective towards one side of the debate. Significance: The results highlight that consumers are willing to explore information and evidence from a wide range of Internet sources, yet prefer and trust well-designed websites that present a balanced argument. Organisations that use websites to disseminate food safety information to the public should consider these factors to maximise consumer trust for the information and advice they advocate. This research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Contribution to Conference (Paper)
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IAFP European Symposium on Food Safety
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07 Jul 2020 15:50
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28 Nov 2023 11:04