Open Access Study protocol

Trust makers, breakers and brokers: building trust in the Australian food system

Annabelle Wilson1*, John Coveney1, Julie Henderson2, Samantha Meyer1, Michael Calnan3, Martin Caraher4, Trevor Webb5, Anthony Elliott6 and Paul Ward1

Author Affiliations

1 Discipline of Public Health, Flinders University of South Australia, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia

2 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Flinders University of South Australia, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia

3 School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, Cornwallis North East, Canterbury, CT2 7NF, KentUK

4 Centre for Food Policy, Department of Sociology, School of Arts and Social Sciences, City University, Northampton Square, London, EC1V OHB, UK

5 Behaviour & Regulatory Analysis Section, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, PO Box 7186, Canberra BC ACT, 2610, Australia

6 Hawke Research Institute, University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:229  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-229

Published: 15 March 2013



The importance of consumer trust in the food supply has previously been identified, and dimensions of consumer trust in food—who they trust and the type of trust that they exhibit—has been explored. However, there is a lack of research about the mechanisms through which consumer trust in the food supply is developed, maintained, broken and repaired. This study seeks to address this gap by exploring if, and how, consumer trust in the food supply is considered by the media, food industry and governments when responding to food scares. The aim of the research is to develop models of trust building that can be implemented following food scares.


Semi-structured interviews will be undertaken with media, public relations officials and policy makers in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Participants will be recruited through purposive sampling and will be asked to discuss a hypothetical case study outlining a food incident, and any experiences of specific food scares. Models of trust development, maintenance and repair will be developed from interview data. Comment on these models will be sought from experts in food-related organizations through a Delphi study, where participants will be asked to consider the usefulness of the models. Participants’ comments will be used to revise the models until consensus is reached on the suitability and usability of the models.


This study will contribute to the literature about systems-based trust, and explore trust as a social and regulatory process. The protocol and results will be of interest and use to the food industry, food regulators, consumer advocate groups, media seeking to report food-related issues and policy makers concerned with public health and consumer health and well-being. This research represents an important contribution to the translation of the theoretical conceptualizations of trust into practical use in the context of food.

Food; Trust; Food scare; Food safety; Australia; United Kingdom