Obtaining consumer perspectives using a Citizens' Jury: Does the current Country of Origin Labelling in Australia allow for informed food choices?

Elizabeth Withall, Annabelle Wilson, Julie Henderson, Emma Tonkin, John Coveney, Samantha Meyer, Jacinta Clark, Dean McCullum, Rachel Ankeny, Paul Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Contemporary food systems are vast and complex, creating greater distance between consumers and their food. Consequently, consumers are required to put faith in a system of which they have limited knowledge or control. Country of origin labelling (CoOL) is one mechanism that theoretically enables consumer knowledge of provenance of food products. However, this labelling system has recently come under Australian Government review and recommendations for improvements have been proposed. Consumer engagement in this process has been limited. Therefore this study sought to obtain further consumer opinion on the issue of CoOL and to identify the extent to which Australian consumers agree with Australian Government recommendations for improvements. Methods: A citizens' jury was conducted with a sample of 14 South Australian consumers to explore their perceptions on whether the CoOL system allows them to make informed food choices, as well as what changes (if any) need to be made to enable informed food choices (recommendations). Results: Overall, jurors' perception of usefulness of CoOL, including its ability to enable consumers to make informed food choices, fluctuated throughout the Citizens' Jury. Initially, the majority of the jurors indicated that the labels allowed informed food choice, however by the end of the session the majority disagreed with this statement. Inconsistencies within jurors' opinions were observed, particularly following delivery of information from expert witnesses and jury deliberation. Jurors provided recommendations for changes to be made to CoOL, which were similar to those provided in the Australian Government inquiry. Conclusions: Consumers in this study engaged with the topical issue of CoOL and provided their opinions. Overall, consumers do not think that the current CoOL system in Australia enables consumers to make informed choices. Recommendations for changes, including increasing the size of the label and the label's font, and standardising its position, were made.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1241
Pages (from-to)Art: 1241
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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