Do consumers follow through on food-safety recalls?

Articles
April 24, 2009

Do consumers follow through on food-safety recalls?

‘It can’t happen to me’ is a phrase that explains risky behaviors in many areas of life. Some people love the thrill of risk, others are blissfully unaware, and many figure the odds are simply in their favor. When it comes to something as basic as checking one’s kitchen pantry for foods that might be part of a well-publicized recall, such a lackadaisical approach makes no sense. Especially since a series of recalls on many foods has punctured public confidence in our nation’s food-safety system, we at SupermarketGuru.com believe people are more focused and responsive than ever to such health dangers. explains why we doubt the currency of survey results issued by the Rutgers University Food Policy Institute in New Jersey, which stated that only about 60% of respondents actually checked their homes for recalled foods. The study identified a disconnect between people listening closely to the news of recalls (84%) and telling others about it (81%), and actually examining their own homes for potentially contaminated products. According to their report, four out of 10 who pay close attention to recall news feel the foods that they bought were less likely to be recalled than foods bought by others. The study, funded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, involved a telephone survey of 1,101 American consumers last August and September.

‘It can’t happen to me’ is a phrase that explains risky behaviors in many areas of life. Some people love the thrill of risk, others are blissfully unaware, and many figure the odds are simply in their favor.

When it comes to something as basic as checking one’s kitchen pantry for foods that might be part of a well-publicized recall, such a lackadaisical approach makes no sense.  Especially since a series of recalls on many foods has punctured public confidence in our nation’s food-safety system, we at SupermarketGuru.com believe people are more focused and responsive than ever to such health dangers.
   
explains why we doubt the currency of survey results issued by the Rutgers University Food Policy Institute in New Jersey, which stated that only about 60% of respondents actually checked their homes for recalled foods.  The study identified a disconnect between people listening closely to the news of recalls (84%) and telling others about it (81%), and actually examining their own homes for potentially contaminated products.

According to their report, four out of 10 who pay close attention to recall news feel the foods that they bought were less likely to be recalled than foods bought by others. The study, funded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, involved a telephone survey of 1,101 American consumers last August and September.

Because the survey was fielded about eight months ago and findings were only disclosed recently, we doubt very much that results would be the same today. Too much has happened since then to keep consumers in such a casual state of mind. The pitiful performance by Peanut Corp. of America executives in Congressional hearings dropped jaws across the nation, in the wake of the largest food recall ever, of peanut products.

As we noted in one of our recent stories about aged results of a Consumer Reports survey before they were shared publicly, we as a nation (consumers, retailers and food manufacturers) operate with a ‘just-in-time’ mentality today.  With everyone’s radar up on food safety—an issue that hits home without exception—and with so much talk in Washington about system reform, we feel consumers would act more responsibly today than the Rutgers survey indicates.

To that end, we’ve posted a survey on SupermarketGuru.com about how people think of food safety, respond to news of recalls, and buy differently in the aftermath of recalls. Click here to take our quick poll.  We’ll be reporting on those results soon.