Consumer trust in the U.S. food system: An examination of the recreancy theorem

  • Sapp S
  • Arnot C
  • Fallon J
 et al. 
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Because consumer opinions to an increasing extent affect the structure and management of the U.S. food system, it is important for social scientists to accurately model consumer trust in this system so they can better understand and anticipate public responses to existing or proposed food-related regulatory policies and facilitate effective partnership building between food-system representatives and the public. The recreancy theorem posits that individuals' trust in and support for societal institutions reflects their perceptions of the competence and fiduciary responsibility of institutional actors. This theorem might prove effective at identifying the key determinants of consumers' trust in and support for institutional actors within the U.S. food system, whether these actors be representatives of largescale, internationally operated firms or small-scale, locally operated businesses. We used data from two nationwide samples of adults to test the recreancy theorem for seven to nine pertinent institutional actors each within five areas of the U.S. food system: food safety, nutrition, treatment of workers, environmental protection, and treatment of livestock. The resulting 55 tests of the theorem entailed the estimation of 55 structural equation models to evaluate model fit and the efficacy of perceived competence and fiduciary responsibility in explaining trust and support. The results of analyzing the structural equation models separately and overall indicate support for the recreancy theorem. Based upon our results, we offer suggestions for enhancing public-private partnership formation within the U.S. food system. Reprinted by permission of the Rural Sociological Society

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  • Stephen G. Sapp

  • Charlie Arnot

  • James Fallon

  • Terry Fleck

  • David Soorholtz

  • Matt Sutton-Vermeulen

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