Purpose – The present study aims to explore and compare consumer perception and scientific evidence related to food quality and food safety aspects of organic versus conventional vegetables. Design/methodology/approach – Primary data on consumer perception were gathered in 2006‐2007 through a consumer survey with Flemish adults ( n =529) and compared with scientific evidence from literature. Consumers of organic and conventional vegetables were selected by means of a convenience sampling procedure. Subjects were asked to complete a self‐administered questionnaire concerning the perception of the nutritional and toxicological value of organic relative to conventional vegetables. Data processing and analysis included descriptive analysis (frequency distributions), data reduction (Cronbach's alpha test, factor analysis), bivariate analysis (correlations, t ‐test, ANOVA) and multivariate analysis (stepwise multiple regression). Findings – It was found that organic vegetables are perceived as containing less contaminants and more nutrients, and as such, being healthier and safer compared to conventional vegetables. However, not enough evidence is currently available in the literature to support or refute such a perception, indicating a certain mismatch between consumer perception and scientific evidence. The gap between perception and evidence is larger among older consumers with children. The perception is stronger when the consumption frequency is higher, but is independent of gender, place of residence (rural or urban), education and income level. Also non‐users, on average, perceive that organic vegetables have a nutritional and toxicological advantage over conventional vegetables. Research limitations/implications – A non‐probability convenience sampling method was applied which limits generalisation of the findings beyond the sample characteristics. Originality/value – This paper is original in comparing consumer perception and scientific facts related to both nutritional and safety aspects of organic versus conventional vegetables.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 26, 2009
Keywords: Consumers; Perception; Organic foods; Vegetables; Safety; Belgium