Public confidence in food safety in the Netherlands has increased in recent years, according to a survey.

People were more likely to feel optimistic about food safety and agreed more often with the statements “Foods are becoming safer” and “I am satisfied with the safety of foodstuffs” than in 2019. A scale of 1 to 5 was used with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 strongly agree.

In mid-2021, an online questionnaire was completed by 3,568 people. The consumer monitor is done every two years and is commissioned by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA).

Overall, 82 percent of consumers agreed or completely agreed with the statement “In general, foods are safe.”

More consumers also disagreed with negative statements about the topic. There was a decline in people saying they were concerned about food safety and that confidence in safe food had dropped in the past six months.

Trust in different bodies and products
The average score on the statement “COVID-19 does not affect the safety of foods” was 3.7 on the scale of 1 to 5. In total, 60 percent indicated they agreed or completely agreed with it. This shows consumers are confident that COVID-19 has little or no impact on food safety, according to the survey.

More than two in five consumers completely agreed or agreed with the statement that the government takes good care of the safety of food, despite the coronavirus crisis. Openness and honesty about food safety are rated the lowest, as in past surveys.

Confidence in milk products and baby food remained the same while for sweets and confectionery it fell. The largest relative increase was seen in egg and chicken products.

Using a scale of 1 for no confidence up to 5 for complete trust, the survey found confidence in the safety of eggs was recovering after the fipronil affair in 2017 but was not yet at pre-crisis levels.

As in previous years, consumers had the greatest trust in fresh fruit and vegetables; nuts; cheese; and bread from the 18 product groups asked about.

Specialist shops, dedicated TV programs, Consumentenbond (Dutch Consumer Association) and farm shops had the highest score when it came to trust in food safety information provided by these parties.

The NVWA is fifth with 66 percent trusting the agency compared to 65 percent in 2019. There was a decline for trust in food safety information seen on social media.

Fipronil incident recall
Almost two-thirds of respondents believe that enough is being done about food safety. This is slightly higher than previous scores.

Only 17 percent of consumers said they remember an incident where food safety was compromised or their trust in food was damaged. This is down from 32 percent in 2019 and 52 percent in 2018. Experts said there were no major incidents in 2021 while fipronil in eggs occurred in 2017.

Fipronil was the subject most often mentioned followed by recalls from supermarkets and issues in slaughterhouses. Sesame seeds containing ethylene oxide was listed by 4 percent of people.

Food fraud, food waste as well as bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause foodborne infections were in a list of 20 things people were most concerned about with food allergies toward the bottom of this ranking.

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