A survey study investigating attitudes and perceptions of consumers towards food pollution affecting food purchasing practices or other lifestyle choices
Keywords:Food pollution, perceptions, attitudes, consumers, food purchasing, lifestyle, chemical contaminants
Food polluted by chemical contaminants is a serious public and environmental health concern. Consumer attitudes to food pollution and how this affects food purchasing practices or other lifestyle choices is dependent upon their knowledge of what food pollution is, and their concern about the risks that food pollution poses to health. The aim of the research was to explore attitudes and perceptions of consumers towards food pollution, specifically chemical contamination of food affecting food purchasing practices or other lifestyle choices. The researcher did not address other food safety hazards such as microbial contamination of foods. The method used was an anonymous questionnaire which comprised 32 questions and followed a logical, structured approach to measure perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours, centred around the areas of demographics, knowledge, attitudes, and practice. The population surveyed was ‘consumers’ and the inclusion criteria for participation in the study was that they must be aged 18 or over. The research study used convenience sampling as the data collection method. The questionnaire was distributed to open social media platforms: Twitter and LinkedIn, using various hashtags to access participants. This non-probability sampling allowed participants to self-select, based on availability and willingness to take part, and allowed for wide and inclusive coverage to obtaincomprehensive data. Data collected from the questionnaire included demographics of the participants, their knowledge and attitudes towards food pollution and their practices in terms of food purchasing and other lifestyle choices. This data was analysed, and the findings revealed: most consumers, but not all, are knowledgeable about the different chemical contaminants that may be present in food; the sources of food pollution; the types of food that could be at risk of being polluted (identifying fish, seafood, and vegetables to be most at risk of containing contaminants); the different pathways that could introduce pollution into food, both during primary and secondary food production; and the populations most at risk from consuming polluted food, for example, pregnant women, babies and the elderly; the attitudes of consumers regarding food pollution is one of concern. In particular, consumers are ‘very concerned’ or ‘concerned’ about consuming food contaminated with pollutants such as microplastics, agrochemicals, and heavy metals; and are ‘very concerned’ or ‘concerned’ about the transmission and concentration of such pollutants through the food chain; and that, despite this knowledge of food pollution and these attitudes towards it, the practices of consumers when it comes to food purchasing and other lifestyle choices was varied. Previous studies have considered consumer attitudes towards food pollution, and these prior studies called for further research and investigation into consumer knowledge and food purchasing practices. This research adopted a quantitative approach using a survey design, to collect and analyse anonymous data to add to the research base in this area of food pollution. As a consequence of the findings, a number of recommendations have been proposed to inform future initiatives to prevent food pollution; inform initiatives toinfluence consumer purchasing practices and other lifestyle choices to prevent food pollution and/or limit the consumption of food contaminated by pollution.
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