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Study: Consumers value safer food more than current analyses suggest
Date:2/8/2011

n condition," Roe said. "What we're saying is, let's think of a method where we can assign a value to that avoided case as well as one for a person who misses work and pays $20 to go to a doctor.

"To hedge their bets, would people be willing to pay $2 a year, $5 a year, to limit the odds they're going to get sick from 1 in 100 down to 1 in 1,000? That's the data you really want."

Roe and Teisl analyzed surveys from 3,511 individuals. In the questionnaire, they set up six hypothetical scenarios around the purchase of either a package of hotdogs or a pound of hamburger. They set prices for the packages both "status quo" foods and those treated with either ethylene gas processing or electron beam irradiation to reduce contaminants and then laid out a variety of probabilities that the treated or untreated food packages contained contamination with either E. coli or listeria, another pathogen that can cause food-borne illness.

They followed by asking respondents to choose one of three actions: buy the food treated with the pathogen-reducing technology, buy their usual brand, or stop buying this product altogether.

The results showed that consumers will reach a limit to how much they want to pay to reduce their chances of getting sick. If the treated product cost only 10 cents more than an untreated package, about 60 percent of respondents said they'd buy the improved product. But when that higher price reached $1.60 more per package, less than a third would opt for the treated product.

The structure of the survey also allowed researchers to see the influence of human behavior and opinions on likely illness outcomes.

"A lot of other research is about what goes into your mouth. But you have a lot of leeway between when you pick food up in a store and when you decide whether you're going to take a bite," Roe said. "What we're saying is this is not just about people who got sick, it's about everyone who could become sic
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Contact: Brian Roe
roe.30@osu.edu
614-688-5777
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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