Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Consumer Demand for Potato Products andWillingness-to-Pay for Low-Acrylamide, Sulfite-Free Fresh Potatoes and Dices: Evidence from Lab Auctions

Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Consumer Demand for Potato Products andWillingness-to-Pay for Low-Acrylamide, Sulfite-Free Fresh Potatoes and Dices: Evidence from Lab Auctions

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

White potatoes remain a key vegetable in the American diet, whether consumed boiled, steamed, baked, or as hash browns, French fries, and potato chips. Per capita consumption of white potatoes in 2013 was approximately 115 lbs per year, about the same as in 1980, but the share going to processed foods increased from 53% to 69% during that time. However, since some of the potato is lost to waste during processing, per capita consumption of white potatoes has actually declined over this period (Rasmussen, Latulippe, and Yaktine, 2015). Richards, Kagan, and Gao (1997) summarize factors affecting the aggregate demand for potatoes, but very limited up-to-date research exists on factors that affect individual household demand for fresh or processed potatoes in the United States.

In 2002, acrylamide was first identified in starchy foods cooked at high temperatures (Tareke et al., 2002), including high-temperature cooking of traditional white potatoes, such as frying, baking, or roasting to make French fries, hash browns, and chips.1 Acrylamide occurs naturally when the amino acid asparagine and reducing sugars (fructose and glucose) are heated to above 250? F, as in frying, baking, and roasting. Once formed, acrylamide is a stable compound. The Maillard reaction, which produces acrylamide, also produces the dark-colored pigments or browning of French fries, chips, and hash browns (Bethke and Bussan, 2013). In general, the acrylamide content rises as these pigments darken. In addition, retail fresh-cut white potatoes are treated with sodium bisulfite to retard bruising and blackening when exposed to oxygen.

Both acrylamide and sulfites raise food safety concerns. Based largely on animal studies, acrylamide is a neuro-toxin and potential carcinogen in humans (Bethke and Bussan, 2013). Moreover, as a result of a broad 2005 lawsuit brought by the State of California under Proposition 65 against the U.S. potato industry, many California restaurants are required to post signs that potato products that have browned in the cooking process contain acrylamide, a cancer-causing agent (California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, 2014). In addition, the U.S. potato industry has a mandate to largely eliminate acrylamide from potato products sold in California (California Department of Justice, 2008) and is working to lower acrylamide formation in processed potato products. Sodium bisulfite is a controversial preservative because some people are allergic to sulfides (Rangan, 2010).

Biotech methods have been used to eliminate these two health risks in white potatoes.2 Changes in potato growing and storage practices and conventional breeding of potatoes have been unsuccessful in significantly reducing acrylamide content in high-temperature cooked potato products or darkening of fresh-cut potatoes. However, scientists have successfully used genetic engineering to significantly reduce acrylamide formation in potato products (Bethke and Bussan, 2013). In addition, the new low-acrylamide potatoes have the advantage of low bruising and blackening when cut, which reduces potato waste associated with manufacturing processed potato products. As a result, treatment with sodium bisulfate is no longer needed to reduce bruising and blackening in the new fresh-cut biotech potatoes. Hence, the new biotech potatoes reduce two types of food safety concerns-a major accomplishment.

In earlier lab auctions of genetically modified (GM) foods potentially carrying traits for herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance, Huffman et al. (2003) and Rousu et al. (2007) found significant labeling and information treatment effects on willingness-to-pay (WTP) for GM foods. Huffman et al. (2003) found that most participants consistently bid less for products carrying GM food labels compared to products with conventional labels. However, the authors did not test for information treatment effects. …

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