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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

The Ohio State – Consumers will pay more for food that will not kill them

Now, that is a shock. 

OhioState_Logo.jpgBut, according to research supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the University of Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station; the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center; and the Marvin and June Morrison Chair in Agribusiness at Arizona State University, that is exactly what was found.  According to lead researcher, Brian Roe, “[t]he results suggested that Americans would be willing to pay about a dollar per person each year, or an estimated $305 million in the aggregate, for a 10 percent reduction in the likelihood that hamburger they buy in the supermarket is contaminated by E. coli.”  Read the full article – “STUDY: CONSUMERS VALUE SAFER FOOD MORE THAN CURRENT ANALYSES SUGGEST.”

  • Doc Mudd

    An interesting piece of research, particularly from the standpoint of survey technique.
    Well worth following the link for a detailed description. Here’s the gist:
    “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.”
    OK, 60% of folks found value in safer food and would pay more (but, 10 cents – some were cheapskates, like me. Still, $305 million in the aggregate!).
    Of the remaining 40% of survey respondents we know little.
    Some (most?) of that 40% would continue buying the “status quo”; hey, it’s familiar and it’s been fine for them so far, no worries. But, what about the few others? Inquiring minds want to know.
    Must I turn to The Onion for follow-up coverage of those few spring-loaded survey respondents who, upon utterance of the technologies “ethylene gas processing or electron beam irradiation” instantly soiled themselves and ran screaming from the store headlong into rush hour traffic, bowling over fully laden shopping carts and terrified toddlers in the melee? You know, the indignant uber-health-conscious few who stormed directly home to sooth their shattered nerves with a big ol’ gob of queso fresco and a clamshell of alfalfa sprouts. So, what use is made of those valued respondents’ opinions?

  • Bill Anderson

    Personally, I am willing to pay extra for food that is NOT processed with ethylene gas and electron beam irradiation to reduce “contaminants.” It is incredibly ironic that the use of all this technology is really not making for a safer food supply. It is just making naturally produced food more difficult and expensive to obtain, and increasing the prevelance of super-bugs.
    FYI — The bacteria that are responsible for the “sharp” flavor of aged cheddar (even pastuerized industrial block cheddar) are “contaminants” ubiqitous in the enviroment of a cheese plant. Most of the starter cultures are dead after 6 months. The only bacteria left are “contaminants” that continue to metabolize the proteins and fat in the cheese, creating the flavor compounds that make good aged cheddar taste delicious.
    I’ll keep my “contaminants”, thank you.

  • Tim Lukens

    Pretty clear from the consumers standpoint, more value in natural.