When it comes to food, consumers value safety and affordability above all else, but their confidence in food safety is slipping, according to a new survey by the industry-backed Center for Food Integrity.
Food safety tops the list of consumer priorities, barely edging out affordability, but the survey, conducted in partnership with Iowa State University, found a slight decrease in the level of agreement with the statement “I am confident in the safety of the food I eat” compared with last year’s survey. Four percent fewer consumers surveyed said they had a strong level of agreement with the statement. The slip occurred after seeing three years of increasing support.
The results report said the low point of confidence occurred in 2008 after an undercover video showed animal abuse at a California meatpacking plant, sparking the largest-ever meat recall.
There was a significant decline in consumer agreement with the phrase: “Today’s food supply is safer than it was when I was growing up.” Nine percent fewer consumers said they had a strong level of agreement with the statement, compared to 2010. This “should be of concern for the food system,” said CFI in their report.
“Those involved in the food system know today’s system is safer than it was a generation ago, but clearly consumer perception is not in alignment,” said CFI.
Survey results showed a similar drop in agreement with the statement: “I have access to all of the information I want about where my food comes from, how it is produced and its safety.”
Seven percent fewer consumers said they had a strong level of agreement with the statement. CFI said this drop shows the industry is “not connecting with consumers in a way that is meaningful to them.”
“If the public feels they don’t have access to the information they need about where their food comes from, how it is produced and its safety, we need to do a better job finding ways to connect with consumers on the issues they see as important,” said CFI.
The Center for Food Integrity is a not-for-profit organization representing “each segment of the food chain,” from ranchers to retailers. They have conducted the Consumer Trust Research survey since 2009.
The results of the 2011 survey–which also looked at nutrition, animal welfare, environmental impact, and international food security–can be found here.