Consumers’ Response When Regulators Are Uncertain About the Source of Foodborne Illness
Health and safety officials are sometimes placed in an awkward position: knowing that a foodborne disease outbreak is occurring but not knowing which food is responsible. They have to advise consumers, but relying on ambiguous and evolving information raises the question, how do consumers respond to changing advice? Here, we estimate a model of the retail demand for tomatoes in the USA, accounting for the 2008 events in the USA in which consumers were advised that some types of tomatoes were contaminated with Salmonella bacteria, and later were advised that tomatoes were safe and peppers were not. Using the quantity of news media attention given to the Salmonella issue, we show that consumers generally responded to the advice that tomatoes were contaminated, but did not respond to the declaration that tomatoes were safe. The magnitude of response to contemporaneous news depended on the extent of coverage in previous weeks. Copyright © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012 (outside the USA) 2013
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