REES Brown Bag Seminar: Edoardo Maria Pelli

Date(s) - 26/05/2022
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
550 General Services Building, 550 General Services Building, Edmonton

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Meeting ID: 967 3047 1265
Passcode: 986014

Speaker: Edoardo Maria Pelli, PhD Candidate, Technical University of Munich, Germany, Visiting PhD, Department of Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology

Title: Investigating consumers’ attitudes towards nutritional aspects of foods and their relationships with moral values: the development of a quantitative survey


Nutritional evidence of foods is a contested issue in many aspects. In fact, there is a lot of misinformation communicated to consumers regarding the nutritional properties of foods, partly because of the role of the media in providing incomplete information coming from contradictory research studies (Oreskes, 2019; Ladher, 2016). Furthermore, given that food industries fund substantially research on nutrition and food, there is also the risk of the so-called “funding effect” (Nestle, 2020), namely that the research findings tend to be according to the sponsors´ interests. In this context of uncertainty, several foods (often called superfoods) are promoted to be beneficial for health, although the underlying validation may be lacking or there is controversial scientific evidence (Bassaganya-Riera et al. 2021). These superfoods are usually vegetable produce coming from developing countries (such as South America) and, beyond their presumed health benefits, they carry some environmental and socio-economic issues, such as an excessive use of pesticides, land use change and replacement of other staple crops with the consequence of being a threat to food insecurity for the countries where these superfoods are cultivated. However, these superfoods are very popular and represent an important marketing trend in developed countries such as Europe and North America.

Given this context of uncertainty around nutritional aspects of (super)foods, consumers may form their attitudes not completely rationally (as suggested by neoclassical economics), but instead they may rely on heuristic processes, driven by moral values. We think that moral values are important because healthy foods are often described as “good foods for health” and this definition bear a strong moral connotation. Furthermore, the previous literature suggests that the attribute: “healthy” implicitly hints at specific discourses of the “[…] submerged iceberg of moral values” (Van Leeuwen, 2007). In this context, our research aims to investigate consumers´ attitudes towards nutritional aspects of foods and their relationships with moral values, relying on the Moral Foundations Theory (Haidt, 2001, Haidt and Graham 2007, Graham et al. 2013). We are implementing the study across two countries, Germany and Canada.

After a theoretical exploration of the issue (which was developed into a book chapter) and after preliminary focus groups in Germany, we are now developing a quantitative survey to be adapted both in Germany and Canada, in order to have a cross-cultural comparison. In the seminar I will present briefly findings from other studies and then specifically some preliminary assessment of our survey instrument. I hope to get some feedback on our plan so we can finalize the survey implementation.

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