Conceptualising responsibility in the aftermath of the horsemeat adulteration incident: an online study with Irish and UK consumers

Áine Regan, Afrodita Marcu, Liran Christine Shan, Patrick Wall, Julie Barnett, Áine Mcconnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
246 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Understanding how consumers react to what is happening as a crisis evolves is crucial for those charged with risk management and risk communication. Responsibility, blame and accountability are important concepts in any crisis, particularly when consumer confidence has been damaged. In this article, we examine to what extent, and to what effect, responsibility, blame and accountability figure in consumer reactions in the immediate aftermath of a food crisis. The data we draw on in this article is derived from an online engagement study that took place in ‘real time’ as the crisis unfolded. Through this study, we were able to explore how consumers responded to the adulteration of processed beef products with horsemeat in early 2013 in Ireland and the UK. We found that consumers attributed causal responsibility and allocated blame for the adulteration to three factors: the deliberately deceitful practices of the food industry, the complexity of the food supply chain and demand from (other) consumers for cheap food. We found that consumers were willing to begin the process of rebuilding their confidence in the food system and accountability was viewed as the primary means for restoring confidence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-167
Number of pages19
JournalHealth Risk & Society
Volume17
Issue number2
Early online date15 Apr 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

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