From Trust to Trustworthiness: Why Information is not Enough in the Food Sector


The many well-publicized food scandals in recent years have resulted in a general state of vulnerable trust. As a result, building consumer trust has become an important goal in agri-food policy. In their efforts to protect trust in the agricultural and food sector, governments and industries have tended to consider the problem of trust as merely a matter of informing consumers on risks. In this article, we argue that the food sector better addresses the problem of trust from the perspective of the trustworthiness of the food sector itself. This broad idea for changing the focus of trust is the assumption that if you want to be trusted, you should be trustworthy. To provide a clear understanding of what being trustworthy means within the food sector, we elaborate on both the concept of trust and of responsibility. In this way we show that policy focused on enhancing transparency and providing information to consumers is crucial, but not sufficient for dealing with the problem of consumer trust in the current agri-food context.


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This article has been based upon research funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality in the context of articulating research issues. Parts of this paper have been discussed during the International Expert Meeting on “Trust and Responsibility in the Agrofood Sector” in Utrecht, 27 September 2002 and the Fourth Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics (EurSafe), Toulouse 20–22 March 2003. We want to thank all participants for their contributions. Special thanks are due to Robert Heeger and Benjamin Radelet for their helpful criticisms of earlier drafts.

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Correspondence to Franck L. B. Meijboom.

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Meijboom, F.L.B., Visak, T. & Brom, F.W.A. From Trust to Trustworthiness: Why Information is not Enough in the Food Sector. J Agric Environ Ethics 19, 427–442 (2006).

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  • food
  • food policy
  • responsibility
  • trust
  • trustworthiness