Food safety is among the topics that Austrians have a high level of trust in, according to a poll.

The 2022 risk perception survey focused on health, the environment, climate change and nutrition. It was done online in March 2022 with more than 600 people. The aim was to gauge concern of the population about certain subjects to help the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) with risk communication.

Less than a third of Austrians were worried about food safety or quality while pathogens in food was a concern for less than half of those surveyed.

Knowledge of major issues
Of the nutritional risks, microplastics in food was the most worrying with 75 percent saying they were concerned about this topic. This risk was included in the survey for the first time in 2022.

Comparing 2017 to 2022, concerns about climate change, digitalization, food safety and nutrition quality and supply remained unchanged.

When asked about the influence a report on a specific risk has on their own actions, nearly half of those surveyed said they would temporarily change their habits. Almost a quarter would permanently change habits and 20 percent were concerned but would not modify behavior.

Around three-quarters of respondents feel inadequately informed about hormone-like substances in food, hygiene and other products, toxins from mold in food and feed, antibiotic residues, and harmful substances produced during food preparation.

Respondents are significantly less concerned than five years ago about harmful substances produced during food preparation, antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, and hormone-like substances in food, hygiene and other products.

Checks on high risk and ready-to-eat food
Meanwhile, a control at high-risk companies that handle products of animal origin in 2021 found 11 non-compliant food samples from 267 tested.

In the case of milk, six of 167 samples had issues. Two because of E. coli, one because of coliform bacteria and three because of labeling. Two of 69 meat samples violated the rules because of E. coli and misleading information about shelf life. Three of 31 fish samples were non-compliant. One because of coagulase-positive staphylococci, one because of Listeria monocytogenes and the other because of a misleading statement about shelf life.

A total of 1,414 samples were taken from 166 companies including 1,147 environmental samples. In environmental samples, Listeria monocytogenes was detectable in 17.8 percent and Listeria spp. in 8.9 percent of samples.

Listeria was detected in environmental samples from 43 sites. In nine of these establishments, there were also indications of Listeria in food samples taken at the same site.

Another control looked at ready-to-eat food from hotels, caterers, supermarkets, schools and nursing homes. Almost 1,300 samples were taken and 100 had problems.

One sample of food with salmon was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and two had extremely high levels of presumptive Bacillus cereus.

Eight samples violated hygiene rules because of deviations from stated temperature during storage. Three samples were not compliant because of allergens. Almost 50 samples of pre-packaged goods had issues with labeling.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)