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Food Neophobia

Last modified at 2/2/2021 3:18 PM by Maren Johnson

Food neophobia is a naturally occurring reaction in humans that protect individuals from the risk of being poisoned by consuming potentially harmful foods. It accounts for a person’s reluctance to consume either new or unusual foods, based on one’s culture and current diet (Rozin, 1997; Stallberg-white&Pliner;, 1999). Individuals may perceive and expect how an acceptable food should look and smell. As a consequence, an unfamiliar food that does not fall into one’s acceptable category will be rejected (Dovey et al., 2008). However, food neophobia may affects food choice and limits overall dietary variety especially in children (Pliner&Melo;, 1996; Falciglia et al., 2000; Skinner et al., 2002).

Factor effecting food neophobia

Food neophobia occurs in all type of consumers. The level of food neophobic response varies among individuals. The level of Food neophobia for each individual is affected by cultural, gender, age, education, social, economics, and urbanization (Tourila et al., 2001; Flight et al., 2003; Olabi et al., 2009).

Type of Food neophobia

Three types of consumers can be classified according to behavior of novel food rejection. These groups are: neophilic, neutral, and neophobic consumers. Neophilic consumers tend to accept unfamiliar foods. In contrast, neophobic consumers tend to reject unfamiliar foods. One way of determining which group a person is classified in uses the Food Neophobia Scale (FNS) developed by Pliner and Hobden (1992). That questionnaire measures one’s agreement/disagreement on 10 statements about novel foods or eating situations on a 7-point bipolar scale (1=strongly disagree to 7= strongly agree).

Type of Novel Food

Tuorila (2001) classified novel foods into five categories. The types of novel food are: (1) functional foods or medicinal food, the foods that claimed to promote health and immunity; (2) genetically modified foods, foods that are produced using gene technology; (3) nutritionally modified foods, foods that have better nutritional benefits than conventional foods; (4) organic foods, the foods are produced or farmed in traditional conditions, and (5) ethnic foods that are specifically familiar to one culture but unfamiliar to others.

Increasing Willingness to try novel food and Food neophobia reduction

An individual’s expectations toward food products have found to play a critical role in consumers’ motivation to try novel foods (Tuorila et al., 1994; Tuorila et al, 1998; Deliza&MacFie;, 1996; Jaeger&MacFie;, 2001; Hurling&Shepherd;, 2003). Consumers’ willingness to try novel food can be increased by providing positive experiences such as giving descriptive sensory (visual, odor, and taste exposures) and nutritional information. Information seems to be helpful to increase willingness to try novel foods and reduce food neophobia (Pelchat & Pliner, 1995; McFarlane & Pliner, 1997; de Graaf et al., 2005). Neophobia also can impact scores given to new foods in sensory acceptance tests (Henriques et al., 2008; King et al., 2008). Often “new” products receive lower scores than more familiar products because of the impact of neophobia. Ideas such as providing information on the product, serving new foods in the context of how they might be used, and testing the new product monadically (in contrast to testing within a set of other products) may help overcome the “penalty” often associated with neophobia (Tourila et al., 1995; Wansink et al., 2005, Deliz&MacFie;), but many of those idea remain undertested.


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