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Public Health Nutr. 2008 Mar;11(3):237-45. Epub 2007 Aug 3.

Food and trust in Australia: building a picture.

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Department of Public Health, Flinders University, Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia.



To explore consumer trust in food, especially people's experiences that support or diminish trust in the food supply; consumer practices to strengthen trust in food; and views on how trust in the food supply could be increased.


Adelaide, South Australia.


In-depth qualitative research interviews and focus groups.


Women and men who are primary food providers in families (n = 24).


Media coverage of food scares and scandals and personal experience of food-borne illness challenged respondents' trust in the food system. Poor retail food handling practices and questionable marketing ploys by food manufacturers also decreased trust. Buying 'Made-in-Australia' produce and following food safety procedures at home were important practices to strengthen food trust. Knowledge of procedures for local food inspection and for national food regulation to keep food safe was scanty. Having a strong regulatory environment governing food safety and quality was considered by respondents to be of prime importance for trust building.


The dimensions of trust found in this study are consistent with key theoretical aspects of trust. The need for trust in highly complex environments, in this case the food supply, was evident. Trust was found to be integral to food choice, and negative media reports, the sources of which themselves enjoy various levels of dependability, were found to easily damage trust relationships. The lack of visibility of authoritative monitoring and surveillance, misleading food advertising, and poor retail food handling practices were identified as areas that decreased consumer trust. Respondents also questioned the probity of food labelling, especially health claims and other mechanisms designed to guide food choice. The research highlights the role trust plays in food choice. It also emphasises the importance of a visible authoritative presence in the food system to strengthen trust and provide reassurance to consumers.

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