Consumer preferences; Food safety; Traceability; Water spinach
The government struggles to fight escalating food safety issues in Vietnam. However, government measures yielded little evidence of improvement to domestic food safety. For that reason, consumers lower their trust in the government. The current market context, and low trust towards the government left consumers to count on their own judgement for the sake of their own food safety. This study applied choice experiment method based on Lancastrian consumer theory and random utility theory to elicit consumers’ preferences on traceable safe foods and the perception regarding food safety. The impact of food safety related attributes was identified in the order of decreasing magnitude: freshness, label, traceability, certification, and price. Results suggested that Vietnamese consumers adhered food quality to food appearance (i.e. freshness) and made judgement with such perception. This paper also highlighted a noticeable reverse impact of the level of food certification on consumer preferences toward safe choices, which contributed to the current food safety situation in Vietnam. The reason was expected to be trust issues in the government, the impact of food safety context, and consumers’ false perception of food safety. To enhance trust, food traceability appears to be an indispensable and potential instrument. Besides, traceability information should be addressed via food label precisely to augment visual inspection as well as to increase its effectiveness. Additionally, consumers are willing to pay a price premium for traceable products, thus inducing suppliers to participate in food traceability. Nevertheless, the government must play a more proactive role in market supervision and education to facilitate the development of food traceability.