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Survey: Public Wants Food Producers to Focus on Safety and Nutrition

The hot topic of food may be depicted just a little bit out of focus these days, according to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Just out with a new survey of public attitudes on food and the risks and benefits of leveraging scientific techniques in food production, the 93-year-old forum for the Windy City’s leadership and policymakers notes that food has become a dominant topic for Americans.

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“If you follow the dialogue on food in the United States, it can be difficult to decide what is and what is not important to Americans,” states the council’s report released Oct. 14. “Entire marketing campaigns angle to promote how a food was produced: sustainability, without GMO ingredients, locally grown, from a family farm, without antibiotics. But according to The Chicago Council’s polling, these are not Americans’ biggest concerns. Unequivocally, Americans care most about the affordability and the nutrition of the food they buy.”

GfK Custom Research collected opinions for the council survey from 1,000 adults ages 18 and older from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The survey was fielded from Sept. 25-27, 2015, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

The Chicago Council stated that it funded the research project from its own operating revenue and accepted no funding specifically for the survey. The group has produced public policy survey research for the past 40 years.

Following food safety, the survey found that Americans are most concerned about the affordability and nutritional value of their food. Fewer than three out of 10 were found to know or care much about topics such as GMOs or antibiotics.

Women making more than $50,000 a year and older than 35 were among those who said they cared most about the nutritional value of food.

“When asked what they think food producers should take into account a great deal, three-quarters of Americans (74 percent) said food safety,” according to the report. More than half said nutrition, transparency, sustainability, and affordability.

The disparities between how the public thinks food producers are performing and how they should perform were striking. Survey respondents said that food producers lack a focus on food safety and nutrition by 50 points, and sustainability, transparency and affordability by 40 points.

“These gaps between the perceptions and expectations may well underlie much of today’s popular food movement — which rejected traditional food systems and producers — and the rise of marketing campaigns focused on organic, non-GMO, and local foods,” the report states. Dissatisfaction over food safety and nutrition is greater than on issues such as transparency and sustainability.

The Chicago Council survey suggests that interest in food has never been greater as evidenced by having its own media and by treating chefs as celebrities. It found that 78 percent of Americans said they care a great deal about how their food is produced, and that health professionals and friends and family are seen as the most trustworthy sources of information about food.

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