Researchers at the Univ. of Guelph in Ontario wanted to see how the largest beef recall in Canadian history impacted consumers. The survey of 130 consumers revealed that following an initial sharp decline in beef purchases and consumption, the Canadian beef market has mostly recovered.
“Given that this was a relatively unknown food processor that was responsible, we were uncertain how consumers would respond,” said Prof. Sylvain Charlebois, associate dean of the College of Management and Economics (CME). “The results indicate that, while there was a decrease in beef consumption right after the recall, many who lowered their beef consumption are now eating the same amount of beef as they did before the scare. Ninety-four per cent of respondents said they eat beef. We also found that most people feel at ease with Canadian meat products.”
The survey also revealed that many Canadian consumers knew about the recall, but didn't listen to the news all that much. This could be an important lesson for the food industry, Charlebois said, because it suggests that consumers may have been influenced by other non-traditional news outlets, such as social media. Regulators and industry may want to expand the scope of their communications strategy.
“It seems less traditional information sources influence consumers' perception of food products, which may make the food industry more vulnerable to subsequent food recalls,” Charlebois said. “Rumors can spread quickly, so it’s important to get correct information into as many different information channels as possible.”
Charlebois conducted the survey with CME Prof. Michael von Massow and master's student Warren Pinto. Charlebois will present the survey’s findings at the International Food Marketing Research Symposium in Budapest, Hungary.