Fish: Friend or foe? Food policy and subpopulation warnings for consumers

Renee Hughner, Jill Kurp Maher, Nancy M. Childs, William E. Nganje

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Fish is a healthy food that provides valuable nutrients for heart health and cognitive development. However, for some subpopulations, consuming fish containing higher levels of methylmercury may pose a health risk. This research seeks to identify the impact of including a seafood warning disclosure in the advertisement of a can of tuna fish on consumers' purchasing behaviors. An experimental survey is employed to examine the resulting impact for two segments of the population - those considered at risk for methylmercury overexposure and all others. Findings indicate the use of warning disclosures increases respondents' negative product perceptions without significantly altering positive product perceptions. Attention to the warning is short-lived and does not significantly impact perceived healthful levels of consumption. Modeling purchase behavior using a random utility choice framework indicates that the inclusion of a warning in an advertisement of a can of tuna fish has no adverse affect on purchase behaviors for the population not at-risk and may, in certain cases, serve to decrease tuna purchase likelihood for "at-risk" respondents. Communicating advisory statements on healthy products, such as fish, creates a public health challenge; message pre-testing is imperative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-197
Number of pages13
JournalFood Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Consumer beliefs
  • Fish consumption
  • Methylmercury in fish
  • Warning disclosure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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