Consumer Preferences for Food Irradiation: How Favorable and Unfavorable Descriptions Affect Preferences for Irradiated Pork in Experimental Auctions

Fox, John A.; Hayes, Dermot J.; Shogren, Jason F.

Journal of Risk and Uncertainty Vol. 24 no. 1 (January 2002): 75-95.

Experimental auctions were used to examine the effects of alternative descriptions of food irradiation on willingness-to-pay for a pork sandwich irradiated to control Trichinella. As expected, a favorable description of irradiation increased willingness-to-pay, and an unfavorable description decreased willingness-to-pay. Notably, when subjects were given both the pro- and anti-irradiation descriptions, the negative description dominated and willingness-to-pay decreased. This was true even though the source of the negative information was identified as being a consumer advocacy group and the information itself was written in a manner that was non-scientific. If this is a widespread phenomenon, the process provides those who make inaccurate claims about new technologies a greater incentive than would otherwise be the case. Keywords: food safety, risk, auctions, irradiation, information, bidding