Monday, March 30, 2009

Food Safety and Consumers

Food Safety and Consumers
Food safety is of paramount importance both for suppliers and consumers of food.

Food safety assurance is therefore the primary objective for all quality assurance schemes, both statutory and voluntary consuming considerable company resources.

The Food Safety Act is designed to protect consumers from unsafe food as well as from food fraud, but food safety and other food standards cannot be separated completely.

Mislabeled products can constitute safety hazards as in the case of sheep’s milk (declared) yoghurt containing a proportion of (undeclared) cow’s milk. This may threaten the life of a consumer with a serious cow’s milk allergy.

Generally, in the eyes of consumers, food safety is an implicit quality attribute, i.e. they would not specifically demand “safe” food in shop or restaurant.

However, where a consumer does not have trust in their supplier, they will try to take charge of food safety, safety assurance themselves.

A customer at a butcher’s may decide not to purchase cooked meats there, e.g., if the shop fails to demonstrate effective procedures for the prevention of cross contamination of those meats via raw meats.

Aspects of food quality besides safety are largely determined by individual preferences. The range and diversity of foods available to consumers today is considerable.

In fact, there are few foods that cannot be obtained by the individual with the time and money to pursue and acquire them.

This means in principle, each consumer can be matched with his or her ideal foods. Whilst most would not go to such lengths, most people have their own individual mental lists of products that they would avoid under all circumstances.

As far as individual supermarkets are concerned, some might question exactly what level of product differentiation there really is.

On the other hand, it may be difficult for consumers with strongly held ethical values to choose food accordingly, e.g., meat from what they would perceive as cruelty-free production systems.

In this case, the difficulty lies with the poor state of the consumer information and advice systems that exist in the food area, and with the associated issue of food labeling.
Food Safety and Consumers

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