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COVID‐19 Induced Stigma in U.S. Consumers: Evidence and Implications

Brandon R. McFadden, Trey Malone, Maik Kecinski and Kent D. Messer

American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 2021, vol. 103, issue 2, 486-497

Abstract: Though both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration claim that there is no evidence that handling and consuming food causes COVID‐19, many consumers may not be convinced. To assess concerns about potential COVID‐19 transmission from food, we surveyed more than 3,000 consumers in May, June, and July of 2020 using a nationally representative panel. Despite evidence to the contrary, consumers express multiple concerns about their food and how and where it is served and transmission of the virus. Between concerns about transmission of COVID‐19 while shopping for food versus consuming food, more consumers were concerned about exposure while shopping; however, the number of consumers concerned about transmission from consuming food steadily increased over the months of data collection. We also found that Black respondents were more concerned about COVID‐19 transmission from certain staple foods, suggesting that COVID‐19 could intensify standing racial inequities related to nutrition and health. Overall, these findings suggest that we may be observing the early stages of evolving food stigmas that could persist in the future and reshape how U.S. consumers shop for food and the foods they consume.

Date: 2021
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