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Poll Shows Food Safety Confidence Slightly Decreased This Year

U.S. citizens are slightly less confident in the safety of the food supply compared to recent years, according to annual polling conducted by the Center for Food Integrity.

As part of the CFI’s annual study tracking attitudes toward the food supply over time, the organization asked respondents a series of questions about food prices, animal welfare, sustainability, world food stocks, and U.S. food safety. Responses to statements were given on a scale of 0 to 10, ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.”

To the statement, “I am confident in the safety of the food I eat,” respondents answered with a mean of 5.99, down from 6.32 last year. That response, however, is still higher than the 5.64 reported in 2007, the first year the CFI began its annual study.

Twice as many people responded with “Strongly Agree” than “Strongly Disagree” to that statement — 28 percent to 14 percent. The remaining 58 percent felt moderately confident.

The organization surveyed 2,001 Americans as part of the study, CEO Charlie Arnot told Food Safety News. The survey pool was split evenly between men and women, as well as primary and non-primary grocery shoppers of households.

When asked if government agencies were doing a good job ensuring Americans ate safe food, average responses fell to 5.40, down from last year’s 5.63 — though still higher than the 4.68 reported in 2008. To that question, those who strongly agreed and strongly disagreed came in neck-and-neck at 21 and 20 percent.

“We know statistically that food is safer than it’s ever been, but consumers don’t perceive that as the case,” Arnot said.

Arnot said he felt part of that disparity in perception came from the intricacy of today’s food system.

“Before, if someone had a food safety incident, it would be localized,” he said. “Today, food is transported across the country overnight. If incidents happen, they’re broader and the coverage is greater, and public awareness of those incidents is much greater now than it was before.”

Ninety-two percent of respondents still either moderately or strongly agreed that food produced in the U.S. was more trustworthy than imports, compared to 93 percent last year. The strength with which respondents feel that, however, has waned from a mean of 7.27 in 2008 to 6.90 in 2012.

Americans appear to be less concerned today with the origin of their food than they were six years ago. In 2007, respondents answered with a mean of 4.36 to the statement “I don’t care where my food comes from as long as it is affordable, safe and wholesome.” In 2012, that mean sits at 5.43.

Arnot added that consumers might feel a boost to their confidence in the food system once measures in the Food Safety Modernization Act — signed into law in January 2011 — are finally enacted.

“We know that consumers are looking for reassurance that food is safe,” he said. “We don’t lobby, but we know that there is a great amount of frustration around the nation that [the Food Safety Modernization Act] is not being implemented.”

© Food Safety News