The first World Food Safety Day, observed on June 7, was an opportunity to check on public opinion around the world. And the survey, say the sponsors, draws attention to the fact that food safety is crucial across geographies, and is everyone’s concern.

At 96 percent, residents of China are the most confident about the safety of the food they consume. Food safety confidence was also high in India, at 93 percent, and the United States at 90 percent. In France, however, 52 percent said they did not feel sufficiently informed to be confident about food safety.

Two world-class companies, Merieux Nutrisciences, and bioMerieux, conducted international consumer research to understand perceptions and behaviors involving food safety in four countries: the United States, China, France and India.

“Even if food safety seems to be a growing concern for these four countries, the results highlight different perceptions and expectations from one country to another,” according to a statement from the two companies.

The survey found best-before dates are most important in India where 66 percent of those asked said they use them, and the United States where 61 percent use them. Only 33 percent of the French consider the best-by dates a guarantee. Scoring higher in France was traceability at 71 percent of respondents; product composition at 63 percent; and quality labeling at 41 percent.

Product brands are not seen as an essential guarantee of food safety in France with only 11 percent relying on them, but rated higher in China and India with 42 percent and 43 percent of respondents, respectively, relying on brand names as indicators for safety.

“As a leader in microbiological food control, we are committed to protecting the health of consumers and the survey we have co-funded reveals that the criteria all four nations agree on as being a concern, is the presence of bacteria in food, rated in the Top 3 by Americans, Chinese, Indians and French people. This illustrates the importance of the microbiological quality of food and beverage for consumers from these four countries.” said Nicolas Cartier, executive vice president for the industrial microbiology unit at bioMérieux.

For issues such as chemicals, food fraud, pathogens and allergens, the international survey found Americans less worried, coming in at 64 percent, than the French at 78 percent, Indians at 81 percent and Chinese at 89 percent.

“When looking at the future, guaranteeing that a product does not present any bacteriological or poisoning risks remains instrumental. It will also become important to ensure that the product is free of preservatives, not carcinogenic, organic and with an acceptable carbon footprint,” said Philippe Sans, president and CEO of Mérieux NutriSciences.

The survey results imply major behavioral changes in many countries, according to the companies. Regarding packaging, 92 percent of French respondents, 72 percent of Chinese, 87 percent of Indians, and 83 percent of Americans are predominantly willing to accept the evolution of less individual packaging, less plastic and more returnable glass. However, a minority of 45 percent of respondents in France and 49 percent in America would accept paying more for healthier and safer food. In India 72 percent would be billing to pay more. In China 73 would pay more.

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