10.1 Data Collection and Estimation Techniques
10.2 Safety and Quality Assurances Measured
10.3 Willingness-To-Pay

The economic value placed on food safety depends on the willingness of consumers to pay for safer food, and the willingness of society as reflected in taxpayer support for government programmes to assist consumers in paying for safer food. In general, food safety studies have shown that consumers will pay only a small percentage above the traditional purchase price to avoid some perceived risks (Busby, Skees and Ready 1995). The willingness-to-pay a larger amount would indicate a stronger concern about a food safety risk. Consumer awareness of food safety problems will also influence the amount consumers will pay for food safety or how they react to risk knowledge or public information such as news media stories. As an example, one study showed that consumers who were aware of problems with pathogenic contamination of sandwiches in two states of the United States were willing to pay a higher amount for reduced risk than consumers in two other states where no problems had occurred (Fox et al. 1995). Another study to determine if consumers would pay for leaner pork determined that consumers preferred to consume leaner pork produced with a new technology, but were not willing to pay the premium price necessary to achieve leanness beyond what current technology would provide (Halbrendt et al. 1995). Only one-third of the consumers in the United States were willing to purchase beef, pork, chicken, and fish irradiated to control microbial pathogens at a 15-20 cents premium (Malone 1990). Chicken consumers were estimated to pay from 12-16 cents per pound more for chicken for various bacterial contamination reduction treatments (Moss, Degner and Zellner 1991). One attempt in the United States to measure the quality perceptions of fish consumers identified cost as a primary reason for not serving fish. However, quality was identified as a more important consideration at the point of purchase (Hadlett and Rabb 1990). Frequency of consumption was significantly related to knowledge regarding the storage and preparation of fresh fish, suggesting education programmes about fish quality attributes may be useful. Less than one-half the consumers in this survey correctly answered storage questions relating to the length and proper storage temperatures of raw fish.

In contrast to these estimates of the value of food safety of individual consumers, one estimate for the United States is that consumers are willing to pay US$91 billion annually for a reduction in the risk of microbial food-borne disease (Shirky 1992). National telephone surveys in the United States in 1988 and 1993 revealed that consumers were more likely to name shellfish (from 2 percent to 10 percent of all cases) and finfish (from 5 percent to 10 percent of all cases) as the vehicle of a perceived food-borne illness in 1993 than in 1988. Sixty-five percent of all consumers also felt that the food-borne illness they contracted across all foods came from restaurants (Fein, Lin and Levy 1995). As is clear from this summary, the willingness of consumers to pay for safer seafood depends on a wide-ranging set of preferences and costs. The following section reviews recent studies specifically done for seafood. It includes comments on consumer surveys and techniques used to estimate values, safety and quality assurances measured and how consumers interpreted these values, consumers' willingness-to-pay. It also covers the effect of media and publicity on the values consumers pay for safety and quality, and the implications of these values for seafood safety and quality programmes.

10.1 Data Collection and Estimation Techniques

Most of the data collection methods used to obtain observations used in analysis to determine the value of seafood safety in specific studies have been telephone and mail surveys and face-to-face interviews. Estimation techniques have ranged from simple statistical of variables to econometric models. This section summarizes these techniques for the limited number of specific studies that have been completed for seafood. The information is presented on a study-by-study basis. This will allow the interested reader to review data collection methods used across studies and review the types of experiments conducted with data observations. The projects summarized focus specifically on those that have attempted to measure the willingness-to-pay by consumers for safer seafood.

From September to November 1977, a study was conducted to determine the effects on consumer sales of guaranteeing United States Grade A quality fresh seafood. The species under observation were cod, flounder, haddock, ocean perch, pollock and whiting. Four supermarkets in Massachusetts were used as test stores. Two were supplied with United States Department of Commerce (USDC) graded fillets and two were control stores supplied with ungraded fillets from the usual sources of supply. Sales and price changes were observed at ex-vessel, processor and retail levels. Cost estimates were made to compare the cost of producing Grade A versus ungraded product (Gorda et al. 1979).

A follow-on study examined the economic feasibility of selling Grade A frozen fillets. During 1981, a processor in Boston, Massachusetts cooperated with five retail supermarkets in Albany/Schenectady, New York in selling frozen fillets of cod, haddock, pollock, and ocean perch. Comparisons were made in sales and prices paid for frozen Grade A, frozen ungraded and fresh fillets. The cost to process and retail the products was calculated (Gorda et al. 1982).

A national probability sample by telephone was used to interview 800 households in the United States in 1988. The purpose was to evaluate consumer willingness to accept irradiated fresh food products, including fish, in the marketplace (Malone 1990). In a 1990 experiment in Rhode Island, United States, a survey was conducted for 256 consumers (Anderson and Wessells 1992). A written survey was completed (for the 256) and a market-like contingent valuation experiment (for 55 of the consumers) using flounder as a reference product was conducted to determine the willingness of consumers to pay for selected safety assurances for flounder (Wessells and Anderson 1992; Wessells and Anderson 1993; Anderson et al. 1994; Wessels and Anderson 1995; Wessells, Kline and Anderson 1996).

Also during 1990, a telephone survey was conducted in 11 Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states of the United States to measure the perceptions of consumers regarding oyster consumption (Lin, Milon and Babb 1991). A total of 606 complete interviews provided the data set for the analysis which included ranking techniques and the use of an ordered probit model to provide statistical estimates of the relationship between a set of independent variables and an ordinal ranking of individual preferences). In a related study, 35 restaurant managers were interviewed by telephone to determine their attitudes about selling depurated oysters. A total of 1 012 consumers were also surveyed by telephone to determine their attitudes toward depurated raw oysters (Degner and Petrone 1994). Partial budgeting techniques were used to determine if consumers willingness-to-pay for depurated raw oysters was sufficient to cover the producers costs of depurating them (Lin et al. 1995). Another project used a double-hurdle model to evaluate whether the decision to consume a product (participation decision) has determinants different from the frequency of consumption (consumption decision) (Lin and Milon 1993).

The effect of a 1991 toxic algae contamination of mussels in Montreal, Canada was estimated using weekly sales data from a mussel farm (Wessells, Miller and Brooks 1994). In related project, 401 consumers were interviewed in supermarkets located from Northern Virginia to Maine, United States, in late 1989 to early 1990, in order to determine consumer perceptions about consumption of blue mussels (Brooks 1993).

Consumer and retailer surveys were used in 1993 and 1994 in the Northeastern United States to gather market information about purchasing fresh hybrid striped bass, trout, salmon, clams, mussels and oysters. Consumers were represented by 1 504 respondents to a mail survey and retailers by 56 firms that responded to a mail survey and face-to-face interviews (Wang, Halbrendt and Caron 1995). A related report using the same data base of 1 533 shellfish consumers and 1 529 finfish consumers presents more detail on the consumer responses (Wessells et al. 1994).

During 1993 and 1994, tests were conducted in Oregon, United States, on value-added products developed from Pacific whiting. Samples of individually quick frozen (IQF) fillets were sent to 66 wholesalers involved in the distribution and secondary processing of whiting products. Companies were asked to evaluate the characteristics of the fillets, as well as consumer questions to determine attitudes and demand for quality assurance, marketing and willingness to purchase. Consumers were evaluated during the tests conducted at the 1993 and 1994 Oregon State Fair. Trained taste panels were also used to evaluate the products (Morrissey and Sylvia 1995).

In January 1997 a survey/questionnaire of buyers was conducted at the Sydney, Australia Fish Market. Questions related to the ethnic and educational backgrounds of the buyers, experience and training in fish handling and their outlook of the seafood industry. The survey was repeated in July 1997 after an incidence of seafood-borne illness in Australia (Ruello 1998).

10.2 Safety and Quality Assurances Measured

10.2.1 Cod, Salmon and Flounder: Rhode Island, United States

Before consumers will be willing to pay for seafood quality, they must be able to determine quality differences in the seafood they consume. One recent experiment documents the partial ability of consumers to recognize seafood quality (Anderson and Wessells 1992). In a market simulation test, consumers were able to correctly determine the freshness (based on age) of cod. They were ambiguous in regard to salmon, and were not able to determine the freshness of flounder. Price considerations were also mixed. The same quality fish was presented to the consumers, but at three different price levels. Only one-fourth the consumers picked the lowest priced flounder, two-thirds selected the lowest priced cod, and three-quarters selected the lowest priced salmon. Sensory tests were also conducted. Overall, consumers in general did exhibit some ability to judge seafood quality in their purchasing patterns, but this is an area that needs much further investigation. Consumers in this study were also asked to rank ten sources of information assumed to reflect the reduced risk of contracting illness or disease from consuming flounder: (1) catch date of fish, (2) inspected by NMFS, (3) catch site of fish, (4) inspected by USDA, (5) inspected by FDA, (6) money back quality guarantee, (7) storage temperature since caught, (8) inspected by retailer, (9) inspected by processor and (10) money back safety guarantee. Catch date was ranked by 40 percent of the consumers as the most highly valued piece of information to improve their confidence in the fish. Inspected by NMFS, catch site of fish, inspected by USDA, inspected by FDA and money-back guarantee of top quality all were thought next most important, ranging from 13 to 9 percent of the consumers (Wessels and Anderson 1992). An econometric analysis was also performed with the only two statistically significant assurances being catch site and inspection by NMFS (Wessells and Anderson 1995).

Another analysis using the same data set was conducted to test if consumers were able to discern among seafood safety assurances, rank their preferences and assign values to the alternatives. A market-like setting with in-person experiments using flounder as a reference product was used to estimate the willingness-to-pay of consumers for seafood safety (Wessells and Anderson 1995). A written survey was used to measure the initial response to seafood quality factors. A total of 78 percent indicated their interpretation of high quality seafood meant fresh seafood. Twenty-nine percent said that high quality is dependent on the harvest site, while 26 percent cited proper handling as a determining factor quality. Eighty percent viewed seafood (both finfish and shellfish) as either somewhat or very safe. Fourteen percent felt seafood was somewhat unsafe, and 6 percent were unsure. Worries about pollution-caused safety problems was a concern of 49 percent, another 30 percent were concerned about chemical toxins, and 38 percent were specifically concerned about getting food poisoning from improper preparation or handling. In addition, slightly over 60 percent indicated their consumption of seafood would increase if seafood carried a date of harvest label or if a mandatory federal inspection programme was implemented and almost 71 percent indicated their consumption would increase if they learned more about handling and preparing seafood. Almost 84 percent indicated they would increase seafood consumption if the price of seafood dropped by 25 percent. The responses given by the 55 consumers compare in some ways with the results from the broader telephone survey (Anderson et al. 1994). In this survey, 63 percent said that high quality seafood was fresh, 25 percent felt it had an appropriate smell, 14 percent viewed it as harvested from unpolluted water, and 12 percent felt trust-worthiness of the store influenced the quality level. No other attribute, including texture, catch location, moisture look, age, clean, clear eyes, proper handling, locally harvested, way it was cut, low price, not previously frozen, high price, and size was considered important by over 10 percent of the consumers. Sixty percent felt seafood was safe or somewhat safe. Of the concerns, pollution was mentioned by 74 percent of the consumers, shellfish safety was mentioned by 40 percent and toxins were viewed a problem by 22 percent.

The most recent analysis reported from this data set used a recursive set of equations to depict consumers' anticipated consumption response from seven different hypothetical events as a function of their current safety rating and other socio-economic variables. Five of the variables were safety or quality related: (1) seafood labeling with catch date information, (2) the institution of a federally mandated inspection system for seafood, (3) an increase in respondents' knowledge concerning seafood selection and preparation, (4) the appearance of media news stories reporting an oil spill in Narragansett Bay and (5) the closure of Narragansett Bay to all fishing (Wessells, Kline and Anderson 1996). Four of the safety related equations were statistically significant. They were learning more about preparation and handling, mandatory inspection of seafood, media publicity about the oil spill and closure of the bay to fishing. The researchers concluded that consumers who were less confident about seafood safety were more likely to increase seafood consumption following the receipt of positive information about seafood, relative to consumers who were more confident about seafood safety. Similarly, less confident consumers were more likely to reduce consumption after receiving negative publicity than confident consumers. Positive information may also motivate those who are already predisposed to increase seafood consumption to further increase consumption, while negative information simply reinforces the predisposition to reduce consumption among those who have already decreased consumption in the previous two years. The researchers conclude that a federally mandated inspection may increase the demand for seafood and could benefit the seafood industry. A similar analysis can be found for other statistically significant variables by equation in the article.

10.2.2 Raw Molluscan Shellfish: Southeastern United States

The consumption of raw molluscan shellfish has been the leading cause of seafood-borne illness in the United States (Ahmed 1991). The perceptions of oyster consumers in the Southeast United States were recently measured (Lin, Milon and Babb 1991). They devised a rating model which measured the safety rating that consumers place on oysters as a function of awareness, prior illness, frequency of use, health status, controllability, source of risk, age, education, location of residence, children, religion, likelihood of illness and severity of illness. The mean safety rating of oysters was below that for other foods. Consumers who had read about illnesses from oysters gave a lower safety rating than people who did not. Frequent consumers rated them higher, suggesting that individuals re-evaluate their perceptions of food safety based on factual information about the product. Two estimation models were used to evaluate all the factors listed above. The overall results suggested that consumers believed the primary source of oyster safety problems were in the water or as a result of processing or transporting oysters. However, the authors stipulated that the econometric analysis demonstrated that consumers did not perceive that the safety problems were from harvesting and processing alone, and that some problems were with the product itself. Thus, a more comprehensive shellfish programme focused on harvesters and processors may do little to improve consumers' safety perceptions of oysters. An alternative might be an education programme designed to improve consumers' knowledge of oyster product choice, handling and preparation.

In a related analysis, both oysters and shrimp were tested in a two-step procedure (Lin and Milon 1993). Certain attributes such as taste were thought to dominate the decision about whether to consume a product. Other perceptions, such as cost or safety, may be more important in deciding how much to consume. For oysters and shrimp, freshness (among other attributes) was a significant determinant of consumers decisions to consume and the amount of consumption. Safety perceptions did not influence either decision, although exposure to new health risk information was associated with reduced consumption.

A related study examined the feasibility of depurating oysters in Florida to determine if depuration was economically feasible and if consumers would pay the higher cost for the depurated oysters (Lin et al. 1995; Dunning and Adams 1995). Fishermen were willing to accept a price for oysters needing depuration only US$1.80 lower than for oysters not needing depuration. Below that price, they were unwilling to harvest the oysters. The lowest cost to depurate oysters was estimated to be US$11.97, making the cost of depuration too high in comparison to the US$1.80 that harvesters were willing to forego in order to harvest from areas requiring depuration. To make depuration economically feasible, the processors would need to receive a price 67 percent greater than current price. Some restaurants indicated that sales might increase by 10-30 percent if raw oysters were safer, but only one-third of them would purchase depurated raw oysters. Consumers had recently reduced the frequency and quality of raw oyster consumption, and it was clear that the costs of depuration were much higher than consumers were willing to pay for safer raw oysters. A companion study (Degner and Petrone 1994) also reported similar information regarding the acceptance of depurated clams. Restaurants reported declining sales of raw clams and increased sales of cooked clams. Some restaurant managers appeared willing to buy depurated clams and oysters and some consumers appeared willing to pay a differential for safer products. Depuration has an appeal to consumers, but its use will need to demonstrate the ability to achieve food safety levels while consuming raw oysters near those of foods in general before it will be accepted and consumers are willing to pay for depurated oysters to be consumed in raw form.

10.2.3 Tilapia, Atlantic Salmon, Rainbow Trout and Catfish: Northeastern United States

Retailers are important links in the seafood distribution process but little research has been done to understand the view of retailers regarding seafood safety. Their views regarding the attributes of seafood safety are different from those of consumers (Wang, Halbrendt and Caron 1995). In a study of seafood retailers and consumers of tilapia, Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout and catfish in the Northeastern United States, 90 percent of consumers felt with varying degrees of intensity that improper handing of fish in the marketplace was a primary cause of unsafe fish. Sixty-three percent of retailers felt consumer mishandling after purchase was the cause of unsafe fish. About 50 percent of the consumers were doubtful or somewhat doubtful about the safety of finfish sold in the United States. More that 55 percent of consumers and 75 percent of retailers want to know where fish was harvested when they purchase the fish. More than half the retailers and consumers felt water pollution was more a problem for wild-harvested than farm-raised fish. About 70 percent of the retailers would support a government inspection programme for fish, but only 30 percent of them were willing to pay for the service at the level equivalent to five cents per pound increase in the price for fish. Seafood labeling and fish harvest location data would increase consumer and retailer confidence in fish safety, and finally, education and information programmes were thought to be useful in increasing seafood consumption.

Consumers in the Northeast United States study gave somewhat conflicting responses to general questions regarding their attitudes and beliefs about seafood. Ninety-seven percent of the respondents indicated they were seafood consumers, yet only five percent were completely confident that seafood contained nothing harmful to their health and only 45 percent were somewhat confident (Wessells et al. 1994; Manalo, Wessells and Gempesaw II 1995). Consumers were asked to rank seven statements about finfish and shellfish safety, using ranks from strongly agree to don't know. The following represent the strongly agree/somewhat agree totals to the seven statements: (1) water pollution is a primary cause of safe fish/shellfish; 91/91 percent, (2) it is important to know the date when the fish/shellfish was harvested; 87/84 percent, (3) improper handling and storage in the marketplace is a primary cause of unsafe finfish/shellfish; 86/77 percent, (4) it is important to know which state or country fish/shellfish were harvested from before purchasing; 59/59 percent, (5) water pollution is more likely to cause unsafe finfish/shellfish than improper handling and storage after harvest; 55/56 percent, (6) improper handling and storage after purchase by consumers is a primary cause of unsafe finfish/shellfish; 53/46 percent, and (7) all finfish/shellfish currently in the market place are harvested from pollution-free/government certified clean water; 6/10 percent. Consumers in this survey were also asked to rank ten food types as most likely, second most likely and least likely to cause illness. The food types were milk, cheese, beef, eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, pork, raw shellfish and cooked shellfish. Raw shellfish was ranked by 70 percent of the consumers as most likely to cause illness and cooked shellfish was ranked second most likely by 32 percent to cause illness. Fish was viewed as a relatively safe product, with only one percent ranking fish most likely to cause illness and ten percent ranked fish second most likely to cause illness. Consumer preferences for farm-raised or wild-harvested finfish and shellfish were also measured. About one-third the respondents agreed that farm-raised fish were safer that wild-caught fish and about one-half felt the same way about farm-raised shellfish versus wild-caught shellfish. Most of the others were neutral or did not know in response to this statement. Finally, an experiment was conducted to determine preferences for consumer labeling of oyster and salmon products. Consumers were asked to rank nine different label options with information varying from wild-caught to farm-raised at three price levels and several inspection options. For both oysters and salmon, the label most preferred contained information that the product was farm-raised, with the lowest price of three available, and inspected by the United States FDA. The label ranked most frequently as second choice also contained information that the product was farm-raised, although it had the middle price of the three available, and was inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture. Of significance is that the results were the same for independent surveys of different consumers of finfish and shellfish.

10.2.4 Blue Mussels and Clams: Mid-Atlantic to Northeastern United States

In the study of blue mussel consumers from Northern Virginia to Maine, consumers were asked if they were afraid to eat mussels. Only nine percent of the respondents claimed they were afraid to eat mussels, with 31 percent indicating they were afraid the mussels were contaminated with pollution. Another 28 percent were afraid of red tide contamination and 14 percent were wary of the locations where mussels are grown (Brooks 1993; Brooks and Anderson 1992). Consumers were also asked to rate their perceived chances of getting ill from eating cod, clams, bluefish, mussels, salmon, lobster, chicken and beef. Clams and mussels scored higher risk ratings than the other foods. Mussels were rated as having a significantly greater health risk than for all other seafood except for clams. In general, shellfish (clams, mussels and lobster) had the highest risk perceptions, followed by chicken and beef, with the finfish (cod, bluefish and salmon) scoring the lowest risk perception. Of the total sample, 75 percent had eaten mussels. Those who had never eaten mussels gave them a higher risk rating than those who had eaten mussels. However, every food was perceived to carry a higher risk by the non-eaters of mussels than by respondents who had eaten mussels. In this study, 42 percent of the respondents thought farm-raised mussels were more safe than wild-harvested mussels, in contrast to the Rhode Island study in which 84 percent thought farm-raised would be better (Anderson and Morrissey 1991).

10.2.5 Fish Market: Sydney, Australia

A study was recently conducted to examine the influence of fish quality on fish prices at the Sydney Fish Market. Quality only plays a small part in price formation for most of the nine species studied. Fish supply was much more important. There has been no formal study on the economics of seafood safety and/or costs of seafood safety in Australia (Ruello 1998).

10.2.6 Irradiated Fish

Consumers perceptions of irradiated food products will depend on the success of agencies and food producers in educating consumers on the benefits of irradiation and the acceptance of consumers of the process. Two national consumer surveys indicated that only 20-29 percent of adults in the United States have heard of irradiation (Malone 1990). In the Malone study, the willingness-to-pay for all food products, including fish (discussed in the following section), was measured, but no analysis was provided on the perceptions of consumers regarding the attributes of irradiated fish products.

10.3 Willingness-To-Pay

10.3.1 Cod, Salmon and Flounder: Rhode Island, United States

The effect of price on the ability of consumers to determine seafood quality was examined in the Rhode Island study (Anderson and Wessells 1992; Wessells and Anderson 1993). Consumers were presented with three samples each of flounder, cod and salmon, with each of the three samples priced at below market, market, and above market price. All samples were purchased the same day and were judged to be identical in quality. Consumers were asked to determine which was the highest quality and to indicate which would be purchased. The expected response would have been the lowest price sample. Only one-fourth the consumers selected the lowest price flounder. One-third selected the highest price sample. More than two-thirds selected the lowest price cod, and just less than one-third selected the market price sample. For salmon, almost three-fourths of the consumers selected the lowest price sample. Tests were also conducted to determine the effect of other consumers' attitudes, behaviors and demographic characteristics. Measures tested were how well the person liked seafood in general, a self assessment of seafood knowledge, frequency of consumption of the species evaluated, frequency of seafood consumption overall and at home, the perception of seafood safety, education level and income level. The results were limited in that for only flounder was how well the consumer liked seafood and the amount of seafood consumed related to the ability to correctly identify the lowest price flounder as the best buy. A higher education level was related to selecting the best quality in only the cod example. None of the other attributes measured were significantly related to the ability to select the correct sample.

Contingent valuation techniques were applied to the same data base (Wessells and Anderson 1993; Wessells and Anderson 1995) to measure the willingness-to-pay of the consumers for ten safety assurances: (1) catch date of fish, (2) inspected by NMFS, (3) catch site of fish, (4) inspected by USDA, (5) inspected by FDA, (6) money-back quality guarantee, (7) storage temperature since caught, (8) inspected by retailer, (9) inspected by processor and (10) money-back safety guarantee. The most highly valued safety assurances were catch date, temperature storage information and catch site ranging from US$0.47 to US$0.34 above the reference price of US$4.50 per pound. Catch date was by far the most frequently preferred assurance factor, ranked first by 22 of the 55 participants in the experiment. An econometric analysis was also performed with the only two statistically significant assurances being site of catch and inspection by NMFS.

10.3.2 Raw Molluscan Shellfish: Southeastern United States

The study of oysters and clams in Florida, United States, indicated a willingness of consumers and restaurants to pay a premium for depurated products (Degner and Petrone 1994). Fifty-five percent of potential oyster consumers (36 percent of total sample) indicated they would buy depurated products. Using a base price of US$.50 per oyster, 70 percent indicated a willingness-to-pay an average of US$.18 more, or a 36 percent premium. At a retail price of US$.55 (allowing US$.05 cents for depuration costs) the number of oyster consumers would increase by 30 percent, and total consumption would increase by 39 percent, as a result of both more consumers and increased frequency of consumption. At higher price levels for depurated oysters, the total number of oyster consumers willing to buy them declined, but there were still enough potential consumers to increase total consumption of oysters by almost 25 percent, even at US$.65 and US$.75 per depurated oyster. Restaurant managers would decrease purchases of non-depurated oysters by 24 percent, even at US$30 per bushel versus US$15 for non-depurated oysters, and increase the purchase of depurated oysters, but the total amount of oysters purchased would remain about the same. Restaurant managers may be underestimating the demand by consumers for depurated oysters.

About 31 percent of the sampled customers expressed a willingness to buy depurated clams. At a price of US$.31 each for depurated clams, in contrast to US$.30 for non-depurated clams, the total number of clams consumed would increase by nearly one-third. For clams, at US$60 per bushel for depurated clams versus US$44 for non-depurated, purchase by restaurants of non-depurated clams would decline by 68 percent, but the total purchase of clams would increase by 20 percent. The main motivation by restaurant managers to purchase depurated oysters and clams is to reduce their legal liability (Degner and Petrone 1994). While these data indicated the willingness of some consumers to pay a premium for depurated raw oysters and clams, the amount they appear willing to pay is not sufficient to cover the costs of depurating them (Lin et al. 1995).

10.3.3 Tilapia, Atlantic Salmon, Rainbow Trout and Catfish: Northeastern United States

This study of consumers and retailers provided limited information on the willingness-to-pay for safer seafood products. Seventy percent of the retailers interviewed believed that a government programme for seafood grading and inspection would increase consumer confidence in seafood safety and retail sales. However, only 30 percent of them are willing to pay for the service at US$.05 or more per pound (Wang, Halbrendt and Caron 1995).

10.3.4 Canadian and Alaskan Salmon

Multiattribute market research was used to determine Japanese buyer trade-offs in salmon product preferences (Anderson and Kusakabe 1989) as reported in a review article (Wessels and Anderson 1992). This study indicated a high level of importance was placed on quality of salmon. Quality (freshness) was the second (behind price) of six attributes for traders of salmon, quality (freshness) was the most important attribute of seven for retailers, and quality (freshness) was the most important attribute of seven for restaurants.

10.3.5 Pacific Whiting

During 1993-94, tests were conducted in Oregon, United States, on value-added products developed from Pacific whiting. The products were individual quick frozen fillets, minced whiting/shrimp patty, fresh surimi analogs and stabilized mince (Sylvia, Murphy and Larkin 1995; Morrissey and Sylvia 1995; Sylvia, Murphy and Larkin 1994). The demand for quality assurance and willingness to purchase were some of the attributes tested. Grade A (higher) and Grade B (lower) quality characteristics were established, including shelf life, flesh color, texture defects, appearance defects, workmanship defects, skin/membrane defects, size of fillet and bone count. The additional value wholesalers were willing to pay for Grade A over Grade B was US$0.45 per pound. The value of each of the eight attributes ranged from US$0.04 to US$0.07. Thus, it appeared a two-tiered grading system would impact market price and wholesaler demand for Pacific whiting. The preferences of consumers were also evaluated regarding quality inspection level. Consumers in a market test were asked to select from a list of 13 different options the five types of information they would most like to see on seafood packaging. Results indicated that some type of safety and quality inspection level was important and industry inspections carried more weight than government inspections (this has implication for HACCP). Consumers were also asked to differentiate between quality and safety issues among different attributes. The top five answers for safety were careful handling and processing, cleanliness, odor, date fish was captured, and no bacteria and diseases present. The top five for quality were freshness, odor cleanliness, taste and careful handling and processing. Interestingly, no pollutants ranked six for safety, and 11 for quality. Consumers were not able to clearly distinguish between safety and quality issues. In a companion experiment of a minced whiting/shrimp patty, consumers indicated that an increased level of quality inspection would greatly increase the importance of the product. For fresh surimi analogs, consumers indicated they were willing to pay approximately US$0.15 per pound more for a fresh surimi product (over frozen).

Another real-time market example for Pacific whiting also demonstrated the willingness of consumers to pay for higher quality. In 1993, a Georgia, United States, seafood company began selling individually quick frozen United States West Coast Pacific whiting to Southeast United States supermarkets. The product was attractively packaged, had up-to-date labeling and was highly successful. United States West Coast Pacific whiting shortages occurred and much cheaper whiting products from Peru were substituted. The buyers and consumers rejected the product, even though the Peruvian product was US$0.30 per pound less than the United States West Coast product. The West Coast product had clearly set a quality standard for which consumers were willing to pay a higher price (Williams 1994).

10.3.6 Irradiated Fish

Irradiation has been a food treatment technique proposed and/or used to reduce or eliminate microorganisms and extend shelf life of fresh food products. It has also been a controversial technique. The willingness-to-pay by consumers for irradiated fresh food products, including fish, for 50 percent and 90 percent reductions in food-borne diseases, has been reported (Malone 1990). Overall, 54 percent of households were not willing to purchase irradiated food. For fish, of those consumers willing to purchase irradiated foods, 74 percent were willing to pay more for irradiated fish to achieve a 50 percent reduction in disease. Sixty-nine percent of those not willing to pay more indicated they had not had a problem with eating fish. Consumers were asked to record if they would pay from US$.01 to US$.25 more per pound to achieve a 50 percent reduction in food-borne disease such as Salmonellosis. The mean value for fish was US$.18, with 37 percent willing to pay US$.25 more. Thirty-three percent would pay US$.15 more and 17 percent, US$.20 cents more. Fifty-five percent would pay US$.25 to achieve a 90 percent disease reduction level, and 20 percent would pay US$.20 cents more for the 90 percent level, with the mean price value for 90 percent reduction at US$.21 per pound.

10.3.7 United States Grade A Quality

It was determined in the market test that acceptance of a Grade A quality standard by the processor and supermarkets involved was high and that consumers were satisfied and willing to pay a higher price for United States Grade A fish. Sales tended to increase when the Grade A label appeared on the package and the quality was high. In a two-year period, sales of Grade A fresh fish fillets grew from zero to approximately 30 000 pounds per week. At US$2.00 per pound, this was an increase of US$3.0 million per year. The cost to produce Grade A fillets was about 17 percent higher than to produce ungraded fillets (Gorda et al. 1979). Grade A frozen fillets of cod, haddock, pollock, and ocean perch were valued by consumers from US$1.00 to US$2.00 more per pound for the graded than for the ungraded product. Due to a very low price differential in producing frozen graded versus ungraded product, profits would still be assured in producing Grade A frozen fillets (Gorda et al. 1982).