Food safety concerns prevail among public

Articles
July 01, 2009

Food safety concerns prevail among public

How far will the $1 billion go to improve food safety, which FDA is slated to receive in the proposed budget? Can its actions restore consumer confidence in the nation’s food supply? A new IBM Smarter Food survey shows the depths of despair currently felt by American consumers: more than 80% no longer trust food companies to develop and sell food products that are safe and healthy. Also, more than 60% of consumers express concern about the safety of, and knowledge about the content and origin of food products they buy. So FDA has its work cut out, if it is to offset the negative impact of so many food recalls the past two years. We feel at SupermarketGuru.com the sentiment is so strong that retailers also ought to find ways—through in-store signage, the Web and other information channels—to convey relevant source and safety information to shoppers. Not that they could totally vouch for every supplier, but they could convey that they care and have traceability in case a problem arises. They also need to be prepared to answer direct questions from concerned shoppers. A vast majority of consumers (83%) were able to name a food product that was recalled in the past two years due to contamination or other safety concerns, in the online panel survey of 1,000 adult grocery shoppers from the 10 largest U.S. cities in June: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, and Washington, DC.

How far will the $1 billion go to improve food safety, which FDA is slated to receive in the proposed budget? Can its actions restore consumer confidence in the nation’s food supply?

A new IBM Smarter Food survey shows the depths of despair currently felt by American consumers: more than 80% no longer trust food companies to develop and sell food products that are safe and healthy. Also, more than 60% of consumers express concern about the safety of, and knowledge about the content and origin of food products they buy.

So FDA has its work cut out, if it is to offset the negative impact of so many food recalls the past two years. We feel at SupermarketGuru.com the sentiment is so strong that retailers also ought to find ways—through in-store signage, the Web and other information channels—to convey relevant source and safety information to shoppers. Not that they could totally vouch for every supplier, but they could convey that they care and have traceability in case a problem arises. They also need to be prepared to answer direct questions from concerned shoppers.

A vast majority of consumers (83%) were able to name a food product that was recalled in the past two years due to contamination or other safety concerns, in the online panel survey of 1,000 adult grocery shoppers from the 10 largest U.S. cities in June: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, and Washington, DC. 

Not surprisingly, consumers are cautious about buying products following a recall:  63% confirmed they would not buy the food until the source of contamination was found and addressed, and 8% said they would never buy the food again.

Roughly three out of four consumers want content information (77%) and origin information (76%), and would willingly dig deeper for data about how food products are grown, processed and manufactured (74%).  

That these sentiments run deep isn’t surprising, since 76 million Americans get a food-borne illness each year, and 5,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly six consumers in 10 (57%) say they’ve stopped purchasing certain foods, even for a short time, within the past two years due to safety considerations.  One saving grace: in case of product contamination recalls, 72% say they trust the store where they buy groceries to properly handle the matter. Just 55% express the same confidence in manufacturer behavior.

“Across the board, transparency is becoming more and more important. Driving that is the consumer, who is demanding more information about the food they purchase to ensure their safety and that of their families,” says Guy Blissett, consumer products leader, IBM Institute for Business Value.