Food safety remains a top-of-mind issue

by Staff
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KANSAS CITY — Economic issues continue to top the list of consumer concerns according to the most recent consumer survey conducted by the Center for Food Integrity (C.F.I.), but food safety remains a top concern. The U.S. economy, rising energy costs, rising cost of food, rising health care costs and personal financial situation rated the highest level of concern among 11 current issues.

"The top five issues each had a mean score above 8 on a 0 to 10 scale, which indicates a very high level of concern on a national survey," said Jan Wilson of Gestalt Research, which conducted the survey for C.F.I. More than 2,000 consumers responded to the national survey conducted in August and September. Food safety was the highest rated non-economic issue for the second consecutive year, and again rated higher than consumer concern over military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This is consistent with the results of our national focus group research in April," said Terry Fleck, C.F.I. executive director. "Consumers told us their priorities are food that is safe, affordable and nutritious. The number and frequency of high profile food safety incidents over the past several years results in heightened consumer awareness."

The C.F.I. survey comes on the heels of a survey conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington. Efforts by the federal government to improve on current food safety initiatives are supported by likely voters surveyed across the nation. Sixty-four per cent of those surveyed believe imported foods are often or sometimes unsafe, according to a poll commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted by Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies.

This concern about imported foods reflected a significant jump compared to the 53% of voters who expressed such concerns in a 2008 survey by the same pollsters. Overall, 58% of voters are worried about bacterial contamination of the food supply -- with about a third of those saying they worry "a great deal."

The survey shows American voters overwhelmingly believe the federal government should be responsible for protecting the food supply, and that the voters support new measures to ensure the government has the authority to do so.

Those surveyed are also in support of more frequent inspections of many businesses that supply food and are increasingly skeptical of imported foods’ safety.

"For too long the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for the safety of over 80% of the foods we eat, has not had adequate resources or power to protect Americans from dangers in the food supply," said Erik Olson, director of Food and Consumer Product Safety for the Pew Health Group. "This poll reflects a strong belief among most Americans that a healthy, nutritious diet is important, and they want to have confidence that their food is safe."

A total of 83% of likely voters interviewed believe the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that food is safe to eat, and an even higher percentage of those surveyed – 89% -- support the federal government enacting new measures to protect people from becoming ill from eating contaminated food.

In addition, 91% of those polled favor annual or semi-annual government inspections of facilities that process food that is at a high risk of contamination, including 75% who strongly favor the effort. FSM

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