An annual survey has recorded an increase in global anxiety about food safety and future food supplies. The U.S. was one of nine countries involved in the research.

The 13th edition of the Tetra Pak Index has seen a 10 percent increase in concern about food safety and future food supplies, with 40 percent of respondents ranking these topics among their top three most worrying issues, compared to 30 percent in 2019.

More than half of consumers asked believe that improving food safety is the responsibility of manufacturers followed by governments. However, less than a quarter cite firms as trustworthy to provide information on the subject. Food safety is also the No. 1 issue that companies need to tackle now and in the future.

Almost three in five consumers said they want to know all they can about product production.

Role of packaging
Two-thirds of people said that being healthy is being safe and 60 percent said they worry about the food they buy being hygienic and safe. This is particularly true in China, where 80 percent of respondents connected healthy food with food that is safe.

Consumers are less sure about aspects of food safety that they can’t control. There is concern about how products are stored in stores or markets with 43 percent concerned; industrial production and packing both at 36 percent; and sourcing at 34 percent.

The top six packaging characteristics rated most important by consumers relate to food safety including ensuring product is free from contamination. Two-thirds think a product may be unsafe to consume once the expiry date has passed only just below it smelling bad at 70 percent.

Attitudes on food safety vary worldwide with six in 10 in France worried about the food they buy being hygienic and safe. Three-quarters of Chinese people are really concerned with how food and beverages are produced while four in 10 Aussies would consider consuming a product after its best before date, if it smells OK. Eight in 10 Nigerians want to see manufacturers focusing on improving food safety.

COVID-19 and food waste
The survey, conducted by Ipsos, included 8,500 consumers from Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia and the United States. Results were collected through June and July 2020. A social media study also analyzed 75,000 online consumer conversations in the U.S. and India during the 24 months leading up to June 2020.

Social media research found high consumer concern about limiting virus transmission through food handling and packaging, particularly at the start of the pandemic.

Adolfo Orive, president and CEO of Tetra Pak, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the status quo, accelerated trends and created a new landscape of consumer needs and opportunities for companies to build on. In particular, the industry needs to address the growing dilemma around food safety and the environment, stepping up toward the twin goals of meeting the human need for food while protecting our planet’s ecosystem.”

COVID-19 has displaced the environment as the number one consumer concern with economic issues in third place. Almost seven in 10 agree that food safety is a major concern for society – the same amount as believe that COVID-19 is a “real threat.”

Food waste is seen as a concern by more than three-quarters of respondents.

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