As the avian flu pandemic threatens Europe, consumer awareness of the theoretical possibility of contraction of the avian flu virus through consumption of chicken saw a decline in demand at the end of 2005, with peaks between 40% - 50% in Southern European countries such as Italy whilst having little impact on demand in Northern countries like the UK. Such food scares, coupled with an increasing awareness of food safety issues by the general public, highlight the importance of evaluating the perceived risks associated with food purchasing and consumption are paramount in order to provide effective policy communication in this area. There is considerable empirical evidence that different consumers respond to food risk communication in different ways. This implies that policymakers and food firms cannot rely on a single public information strategy for emerging food risks. Furthermore, the impact of food safety information varies significantly according to the sources that provide it. Using data are from a nationally representative pan-European survey of 2 725 respondents from five EU countries (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and the United Kingdom), we show that in a situation of increased perceived risk hence increased levels of involvement households across the EU are likely to respond in culturally specific ways which suggest a need for country level policy design.


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