Trust in Food

Constructing and maintaining Trust in Food systems: the integrity of ‘organic’ and the reuse of biosolids in agriculture.


A research study is proposed, to examine the elements involved in establishing and maintaining public trust in food systems with particular reference to the reuse of Biosolids in agriculture.

There has been much debate in recent years, academic and general, about food safety and food risks. Central to the debate, is the element of trust in food. Yet we know little of how people develop and maintain such trust, and how it may be changing as Irish food systems develop.

This project involves direct collaboration between IT, Sligo and Trinity College , Dublin (TCD). Hilary Tovey is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, TCD. She is currently President of the European Society for Rural Sociology, and has an extensive research track record in sociological aspects of food and farming production systems.

This project is a development of the overall Biosolids Programme, funded in PRTLI-Cycle 2. It will have particular relevance for Biosolids 7 (sustainable development indicators) scheduled to start in September 2001. Results from this project will be available to all researchers within the Centre for Sustainability.

One Ph.D. student is envisaged, to be enrolled at ITS and jointly supervised by Dr Perry Share (ITS) and Hilary Tovey (TCD)

Organic Kitchen Garden Produce.

The Research Team

Dr. Perry Share Principal researcher Department of Business and Humanities, IT, Sligo.

Ms. Hilary Tovey Associate researcher Dept. of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin.

Mr. Oliver Moore Post-Graduate Student Department of Environmental Science, IT, Sligo.


As the social and geographical distance between producer and consumer extends, the need for the latter to place trust in the food production process is deepened. This project seeks to explore the processes of developing and maintaining trust, with a focus on the area of organic food production.

This sector of the food market has received much attention, partly as a response to issues of rural development, but also as it has rapidly expanded, not least through the recent entry of supermarkets and food processors. Such changes are likely to significantly impact on the structures that may have supported trust in organic food: the certification process; the close links between grower, distributor and consumer; and the ‘ideological package’ engendered by organic foods.

An example of this is the place of Biosolids fertilised foods. In some countries, Biosolids is listed as acceptable in organic production. In others it is not.

The project aims to explore the regulatory environment; consumer attitudes and practices; and the organic food system; in order to explore the changing landscape of trust in food. No research study to date has examined public attitudes to the reuse of Biosolids in agriculture.

It is essential that the parameters of these attitudes and trust base are established so that the correct information can be provided to support the development of informed opinions. A fuller understanding of these processes will help to inform the future management of food safety issues in the broader context.


Organic Kitchen Garden Produce.

Eden plants, Rosinver, Co Leitrim. Project Details

To meet the Phase 1 specification of ca. 40 pages for Volume 2, the project, at this stage, is described in outline. A preliminary work programme is presented in Figure B.2.3. Full task details, will be provided in Phase 2.

The aims of this project are to establish how the Irish food industry generates and sustains trust in food products; what are the implications of such change for processes of certification, labelling, quality control and traceability of organic food products; how will such changing relationships and practices affect the extent and nature of consumers’ trust in food.

This project will comprise a comparative international analysis and construction of a typology of organic food industry standards and certification regimes; a study of consumer attitudes and practices in relation to organic food and the use of Biosolids; a study of the maintenance of the integrity of the organic food industry chain: from production to consumption.

Research methodologies will include a review of international organic standards, a large-scale (c500 respondents) mail-based attitudinal survey; in depth interviewing; observation of food handling procedures.


Organic Kitchen Garden Produce.