Food safety, namely the deadly Listeria cantaloupe outbreakthat took the lives of 30 of the 146 people sickened, topped the list of the most significant food stories of 2011, according to a recent survey of Americans.

Both the outbreak and the new MyPlate initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama, eclipsed record food prices, which came in third, according to Hunter PR, which has conducted the annual survey for almost a decade.

Four of the top 10 most significant stories ranked were food-safety related. Cargill’s 36 million pound multi-drug resistant Salmonella ground turkey recall, the largest class 1 meat recall in history, came in fourth. The passage of the landmark FDA food safety bill — which cleared Congress at the end of 2010, but was signed into law by President Obama Jan. 4, 2011 –ranked sixth.

The 10th most significant story was the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service decision to lower the cooking temperature for porkfrom 160° F to 145° F.

Interestingly, the debate over whether government can put obese children in foster care and General Mills being sued for marketing fruit snacks as “healthy” made the list, but the passage of the Child Nutrition Act, which gave the National School Lunch Program a boost, did not.

The survey also found that high-profile food news stories are impacting the way Americans think about and consume food.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said they changed their food habits in 2011 because of news coverage and the most common change reported was paying more attention to the foods they eat. Forty-five percent of Americans who were influence by a food story decided to cook and eat more at home, according to Hunter PR.

In the year ahead, 67 percent of American adults will make a food-related New Year’s resolution. Fourteen percent said they would continue to incorporate less meat into their diets, 47 percent of these resolutions will address adding more whole grains or seeking beverages with less sugar.

The survey of 1,000 American adults was conducted by Wakefield, an independent market research firm. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Hunter PR is holding an online conversation about the survey results and the top food stories of 2011 on December 15 between 9 and 10 p.m. EST — those interested in participating can follow the discussion via #HunterPRFood or @HunterPR.