The health implications of distrust in the food system: findings from the dimensions of trust in food systems scale (DOTIFS scale)

Emma Tonkin, Trevor Webb, Julie Henderson, Paul R. Ward, John Coveney, Samantha B. Meyer, Dean McCullum, Annabelle M. Wilson

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Abstract

Background: Consumer trust in food systems is essential for consumers, food industry, policy makers and regulators. Yet no comprehensive tool for measuring consumer trust in food systems exists. Similarly, the impact that trust in the food system has on health-related food behaviours is yet to be empirically examined. The aim of this research was to develop a comprehensive instrument to measure trust in the food system (the Dimensions of Trust in Food Systems Scale (DOTIFS scale) and use it to explore whether trust in the food system impacts consumers’ health-related behaviours. Methods: The DOTIFS scale was developed using sociological theories of trust and pre-existing instruments measuring aspects of trust. It was pilot tested and content validity was assessed with 85 participants. A mixed-methods exploration of the health-related behaviours of 18 conveniently sampled Australian consumers with differing trust scores determined by the DOTIFS scale was then conducted. During March–July 2019 shopping- and home-observations were used to assess participants’ food safety practices and exposure to public health fortification programs, while the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score determined their adherence to national dietary guidelines. Results: The DOTIFS scale was found to have high comprehension, ease of use and content validity. Statistical analysis showed scale scores significantly trended as predicted by participants’ stated level of trust. Differences were found in the way individuals with more or less trust in the food system comply with national dietary guidelines, are exposed to public health fortification programs, and adhere to recommended food safety practices. Conclusions: The DOTIFS scale is a comprehensive, sociologically- and empirically- informed assessment of consumer trust in food systems that can be self-administered online to large populations and used to measure changes in consumer trust over time. The differences in health-related behaviours between individuals with varying levels of trust warrant further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1468
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Food
  • Food industry
  • Health behaviour
  • Survey
  • Trust

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