ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Cross-country questionnaire design for a hot topic

Hazel Fowler

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 6 - Law Building, Room 022
Date: 2012-07-11 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2012-03-13


Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is a bi-national government agency that administers the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code). As part of its work, FSANZ undertakes consumer behaviour and attitude surveys to assist in discharging its duties with respect to protecting public health and safety, ensuring consumers are adequately informed, and preventing misleading or deceptive conduct. The Code allows the voluntary fortification of food products with certain specified vitamins and minerals, as well as requiring the mandatory addition of vitamin D, thiamin, folic acid (Australia only) and iodine to certain specified foods. FSANZ undertook to monitor the folic acid and iodine fortification, and had an interim objective of examining consumers’ awareness of products that have been mandated to contain folic acid and their ability to make an informed choice about other fortified food products for consumption. In 2011 FSANZ conducted a consumer survey across Australia and New Zealand into voluntary and mandatory fortification to meet this interim objective. Previous qualitative research with consumers on the subject had revealed a low level of consumer knowledge and understanding of food fortification, particularly mandatory fortification. This posed challenges in writing the questionnaire, as technical terms such as ‘fortification’ were not understood. Research had also shown some respondents felt conflicted about fortification, seeing both benefits and risks. Previously this had led to a large proportion of survey respondents selecting neutral responses, consequently collapsing those who felt strongly about the issue but couldn’t choose either way with those with no opinion. Options discussed in the questionnaire design literature for addressing this problem were assessed and informed the questionnaire development. The questionnaire was carefully designed to elicit a more nuanced picture of participants’ responses to fortification measures. Cognitive testing and field testing of the questionnaire was used to refine the questionnaire and examine potential areas for respondent confusion. This presentation will discuss the questionnaire development phase of this work.