Trust in Food

Assuring quality, sustainability, price and availability

Authored by: Lovisa Näslund , Fergus Lyon

The Routledge Companion to Trust

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138817593
eBook ISBN: 9781315745572
Adobe ISBN:


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We often take access to food for granted and only question this when there are food scares. The horse meat scandal of 2008 and various scandals of baby milk quality are examples where trust has become central to public debates. But how can we trust what we are eating and how can we trust those providing food around the world. Access to secure and adequate food is a universal human need, as is evident in the annual global retail food sales of 4 trillion USD, half of which is the result of international trade (USDA, 2016; World Trade Statistical Review, 2016). However, eating could also be seen as inherently a source of anxiety, since food also has the potential to cause discomfort, sickness and environmental degradation (Freidberg, 2003). We are therefore both dependent on, and inherently vulnerable to, food. This inherent vulnerability in our relationship to food makes trust essential in situations where we are able to choose between different foods. Buying and consuming food necessitates trust, which may be defined as ‘a willingness to be vulnerable to another party’ (Schoorman et al., 2007, p. 347). A fuller definition of trust adds to this, in that ‘trust is a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behaviour of another’(Rousseau et al., 1998, p. 395).

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