Six in 10 people said they would never go to a restaurant again if they contracted a foodborne illness while eating there, according to a survey.

Surveyed consumers said their top food safety concerns included restaurant kitchen and wait staff hygiene, foodborne outbreaks, illness from contaminated food, and recalls.

Findings come from the food safety supply chain vision study by Zebra Technologies. It details the views of consumers and food and beverage companies on safety, traceability and transparency.

Slightly more than 80 percent of consumers said companies have an important role to play in food safety and an ethical responsibility to ensure safe handling of food. Seventy percent of consumers said it is important to know how their food and ingredients are manufactured, prepared, and handled.

Less than a quarter of consumers said they have complete confidence in the safety of their food, based on information currently available to them. An average of 20 percent of consumers place complete trust in companies and brands to ensure food safety compared to 37 percent of industry representatives, who are reportedly more informed.

North American highlights
The survey included 4,957 consumers and 462 food and beverage firms from 15 countries in the manufacturing, transportation and logistics, retail and wholesale distribution markets in North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe. They were interviewed in January 2020 by Azure Knowledge Corporation.

In North America, almost two thirds of consumers cited fear of foodborne illness as the primary reason for wanting more information about their food source. The average trust level in companies and brands to ensure food and beverages are safe is higher in industry decision-makers (45 percent) than consumers (18 percent).

Almost seven in 10 industry representatives said the sector is prepared to manage food traceability and transparency, but only 35 percent of consumers agree. Only 13 percent of the public felt industry was extremely prepared today to manage traceability and be transparent about how food goes through the supply chain, whereas 27 percent of decision-makers reported feeling this way. Half of surveyed decision-makers said meeting consumer expectations will remain a challenge in the next five years.

“Findings from our study show that while the industry is taking measures to ensure a more transparent supply chain, more work needs to be done in order to increase consumer confidence and improve food traceability. Businesses naturally have more information available to them but can improve consumers’ faith in their food sources by providing them access to the same information,” said Mark Wheeler, director of supply chain solutions at Zebra Technologies.

Regional reaction
Businesses in Latin America take food safety and transparency more seriously, while attitudes around the value of technology to food safety are more relaxed in Europe.

Seventy-nine percent of consumers in Latin America reported having access to accurate information about where their food came from was important. Almost nine in 10 cited restaurant kitchen staff hygiene as their top concern for food-related issues.

In Europe, only 15 percent of surveyed consumers completely trust food and beverage distributors to ensure products are safe for consumption. More than six in 10 listed a foodborne outbreak as their top concern for food-related issues.

Nearly three-quarters of consumers in Asia Pacific listed illness and death caused by contamination as their biggest concern for risks posed by the food supply chain.

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