Foodborne illness was the most important food safety issue identified in a consumer survey in Australia and New Zealand.

The first Consumer Insights Tracker by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) revealed that nearly half of people had heard about a food recall in the past 12 months.

FSANZ surveyed more than 2,000 Australian and New Zealand consumers in April 2023 to understand their trust in and understanding of the food regulation system covering both countries.

The poll focused on trust and confidence in the food system, trust, use, and understanding of food labeling, health and dietary factors affecting food choices, food safety knowledge and behaviors, and new and emerging foods and technologies.

Foodborne illness concern
Key findings include that 72 percent of people have confidence in the safety of the food supply, with farmers and producers being the most trusted in the food system. The least trusted were manufacturers and processors, while 63 percent trusted government food authorities.

A total of 59 percent of consumers named foodborne illness as their key food safety concern. However, people did not perceive eggs to be a risky food despite them being one of the most common sources of foodborne illness. They identified raw chicken or other poultry as a risky category of food as well as seafood and raw shellfish.

Other worries included chemicals from the environment in food, contamination with foreign objects, hormones, steroids, or antibiotics, and imported food.

Sixty-two percent of consumers would not be confident in the safety of cell-based meat if it became available in Australia and New Zealand. Only 24 percent said they would eat cell-based meat but 29 percent were unsure, suggesting they may be open to trying it.

Product labels were the preferred source of information on how to store and prepare food safely, followed by health professionals, retailers, and family and friends.

Almost two-thirds said they always looked at best-before and use-by dates or most of the time. Up to a third showed an incorrect understanding of these two date terms, and among people with a correct understanding, there was inconsistent behavior, such as throwing out food after its best-before date.

Monitoring trends
Slightly more than half of respondents had heard of FSANZ, but only 1 percent said they knew a lot about what the agency does.

Sandra Cuthbert, FSANZ CEO, said the agency was committed to building trust and confidence in the food supply and would run the survey every year to track consumer attitudes to food safety over time.

“Public confidence in the food supply is critical to supporting good public health and economic outcomes in Australia and New Zealand while delivering broader social and cultural benefits,” she said.

“FSANZ sets the standards for safe food and works with public health, government, academic and industry partners in both countries to keep the food supply safe, so we need to understand what consumers want and need from the bi-national food regulation system.”

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