Tomatoes are consumed daily. Unfortunately, abuse of pesticide application by vegetable growers in Uganda increases risks of exposing consumers through the pesticide residues, as it may be above the European Union Maximum Residue Limits (used as a standard in Uganda). This study aimed to determine consumer attitudes and risk perception towards pesticides stained tomatoes available on the Ugandan local markets.

Methods
A cross-sectional study sampled 468 household consumers in four districts one from each region of Uganda. In each district, 60 household members from three randomly selected Sub Counties were interviewed. In addition, in each district 9 tomato handlers (3 tomato farmers, 3 tomato retailers and 3 tomato wholesalers) participated in Focus Group Discussion (FGDs) per district. Collected data was entered into MS-Excel 13 and exported into STATA SE 14.0 for cleaning and analysis under 5% level of significance and 95% Confidence Intervals (CI). Proportion of risk perceptions and attitudes were computed and presented as percentages while factors associated with risk perception determined using Fisher exact test. Qualitative data was analyzed using deductive and inductive approaches under thematic content analysis.

Results
More than half, 54.2% (253/468) of the respondents were females, mean age was 37 years (SD=13.13, ranging from 18 to 88 years). Half, 50.9% (238/467) were farmers by occupation and 40.3% (188/468) had completed upper primary education. Only 5.0% (20/396) of consumers reported a high risk perception towards tomatoes stained with pesticide residues, the rest, 95.0% (376/396) were buying pesticide stained tomatoes despite their awareness about the possible health effects.

The main reason for buying the pesticides stained tomatoes was that: majority, 59.0% (230/390) lacked an alternative to stained tomatoes. However, consumers generally had a negative attitude towards pesticides stained tomatoes, with 67.0% (313/468) of the consumers disagreeing with a statement that tomatoes sold on the market are safe. Consumer risk perception was significantly associated with consumer awareness about residues in the tomatoes; where the proportion of consumers who were aware of the risk of pesticide stained tomatoes were 42.8 times more likely not to buy stained tomatoes compared to the proportion of those who were not aware. OR, 42.8 (95% CI: 10.76-170.28). However, level of education P(0.975), gender P(0.581) and age-group P(0.680) were not associated with consumer risk perception after Fisher-Exact test analysis (95% CI and 5% level of significance).

Conclusion
Consumer risk perception on pesticides stained tomatoes among Ugandan consumers ranked low with majority of consumers buying tomatoes stained with pesticide residues due to lack of an alternative, except for a few who had a high risk perception about the pesticide health effects.

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Sekabojja, Daniel & Nabankema, Victoria & Sekimpi, Deogratias & Jørs, Erik. (2021). Consumer risk perception towards pesticides stained tomatoes in Uganda.. 10.1101/2021.02.15.431249.