Consumer confidence in food safety on the rise

by Keith Nunes
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DALLAS — Consumer confidence in food safety is at its highest point in seven years, according to the Food Marketing Institute’s annual “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2011” report. Eighty-eight per cent of the consumers surveyed said they are “completely” or “somewhat” confident in the safety of food at the supermarket.

“Supermarkets have built consumer trust by taking extensive measures to safeguard food sold in grocery stores,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer of the F.M.I. “By working closely with suppliers to ensure safety standards are met, by training staff on best practices for safe food handling and educating consumers about food safety, retailers are a critical link in the safety of the food supply.”

When asked where they believe food safety breaches occur, more than half of shoppers named food processing and manufacturing plants. However, when respondents were asked who is responsible for ensuring food safety, 58% said they are responsible for the safety of their food, up 7 percentage points from 2010. Next on the list were manufacturers and processors at 35%, followed by supermarkets and government agencies at 28%.

The F.M.I. noted that one of the triggers for declining consumer confidence in food safety is high profile recalls, and that there were few during 2011.

The International Food Information Council’s “2011 Food & Health Survey” also found that consumer confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply has increased. The I.F.I.C. found that 50% of survey respondents said they were either “extremely confident” or “somewhat confident” in the safety of the food supply, an increase compared with 2008. The survey also showed that consumers consider illness caused by food borne pathogens to be the most important food safety issue today.

The I.F.I.C. study identified that most consumers get their food safety information from television or radio news programs or the newspaper. The sources consumers most trust for food safety information are government officials or representatives of “health associations.”
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