Food fraud and consumers’ choices in the wake of the horsemeat scandal
Purpose - In 2012, the European food industry was hit by a food fraud: horsemeat was found in pre-prepared foods, without any declaration on the package. This is commonly referred to as the "horsemeat scandal". The purpose of this paper is to investigate consumers' preferences across Europe for a selected ready meal, ready to heat (RTH) fresh lasagne, to consider whether the effects of potential food frauds on consumers' choices can be mitigated by introducing enhanced standards of RTH products.
Design/methodology/approach - An online survey was administered to 4,598 consumers of RTH lasagne in six European countries (Republic of Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Norway), applying discrete choice experiments to estimate consumers' willingness to pay for enhanced food safety standards and highlight differences between countries.
Findings - Many similarities across countries emerged, as well as some differences. Consumers in Europe are highly concerned with the authenticity of the meat in ready meals and strongly prefer to know that ingredients are nationally sourced. Strong regional differences in price premiums exist for enhanced food safety standards.
Originality/value - This research adds relevant insights in the analysis of consumers' reaction to food fraud, providing practical guidelines on the most appropriate practices that producers should adopt and on the information to reduce food risk perception among consumers. This would prove beneficial for the food processing industry and the European Union. The survey is based on a representative sample of European consumers making this the largest cross-country study of this kind.