Survey finds many Americans confident about safety of U.S. food supply

WASHINGTON—More than eight out of 10 Americans—85 percent—say they have given some thought to the safety of their foods and beverages over the past year, and 78 percent are very or somewhat confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply.

That’s according to the 2012 Food & Health Survey of the International Food Information Council.

More than half of survey participants (57 percent) said they believe the chances that they will get a foodborne illness or food poisoning are extremely low. Only one in six (17 percent) said they have stopped buying a specific brand or type of food due to concerns about its safety; however, concerns about bacteria (51 percent), “chemicals” in food (51 percent), imported food (49 percent), pesticides (47 percent) and animal antibiotics (30 percent) have an impact on what foods or brands of food Americans purchase.

The survey found that Americans believe the people who prepare most of the food in their homes do the best job of ensuring the safety of their food; 94 percent reported that that individual does at least a good job, and 44 percent reported that the individual does an excellent job. Eighty-two percent of survey participants view agricultural producers as doing a good job or better, and 73 percent felt that way about food retailers. While they ranked food manufacturers, food service establishments and the government lower—65 percent, 64 percent and 56 percent, respectively—participants said all entities charged with ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply are doing at least a good job.

About half of participants, 48 percent, perceive imported foods as being less safe than foods produced in the United States. Most of those, 77 percent, attribute that to a lack of regulation. Sixty-one percent believe that imported foods are produced in less-sanitary conditions, and 60 percent believe they could become contaminated or spoiled during travel to this country.

When asked how they determine whether to believe new information about food and health, 26 percent said they follow up and do their own research. Twenty-four percent said they judge information based on the source and whether that source is an organization they trust.

Packaging information most commonly used by survey participants includes the expiration date (76 percent) and the nutrition facts panel (66%). Half of participants said they look at the ingredients list, the serving size and amount per container, and calorie or nutrition information icons displayed on the front of the package.

As in recent years, taste and price continue to drive food and beverage choices (87 percent and 73 percent, respectively) more than healthfulness (61 percent), convenience (53 percent) or sustainability (35 percent). Older participants were more likely to report that healthfulness, taste and sustainability affect their food selection, while price was more important for consumers younger than 50.

The full survey findings and additional information are available at
Contact Steven Cohen or Jania Matthews, IFIC, at 202-296-6540.

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