a) Lack of knowledge and awareness: This is one of the primary barriers to consumer participation. Lack of forums, discussions and activities providing right information related to food safety is one of the reasons behind this. Consumers are often not aware of the procedures to complain against any food product that’s not up to the mark. b) Low literacy skills: It is a major barrier to participation, especially with regard to those in the lower socioeconomic segment. Consumers from this segment are also not well aware about their rights as a consumer. c) Lack of trust: Lack of trust may inhibit consumer towards industry and government and might not take the required action. d) Conflicting messages: Conflicting messages by different groups about the same product can end up being a reason for lack of consumer participation. Consumers face contradictory messages and are unable to make up their mind about a product, and consequently hesitate to take action. e) Lack of resources and the costs involved: Lack of resources and the costs of participating are also stated as barriers to consumer involvement.
How Can Consumer Participation Be Encouraged/ Facilitated?
Food choices must be made consciously by consumers and it’s important that they are well aware about the facts around food safety. Consumers have a right to know the concerns related to the quality of foods consumed by them.
Here are some ways in which consumer participation can be encouraged: a) Sensitising the importance of consumer participation: To facilitate consumer participation, it’s essential that consumers consider it necessary. Consumers must be aware about how essential it is for them to participate in the process and the benefits of participating actively. b) Consumer education: In general, consumer education refers to the process of developing and enhancing skills and knowledge of consumers so that they can make informed and reasonable choices. Consumer education can help develop critical thinking and raise awareness, thereby enabling consumers to become proactive. To create an impactful education programme, it’s important that the objectives and strategies thereof are well defined. It’s also important that the objectives, content and delivery of consumer education are customised as per the audience at which it is targeted. Consumer education campaigns must focus on specific key issues, use clear and concise language, and offer practical advice.