Supermarkets can gain by raising food safety

May 11, 2011

Consumers say their greatest safety concerns center on fresh meats, seafood, imports and produce. Most would pay more for traceable foods.

Nearly three-quarters of consumers (73%) are more concerned about food safety vs. five years ago – a jump of eight percentage points since the same benchmarking survey was conducted last year.

Consumers are more concerned because many (41%) perceive that the number of food recalls increased in 2010 over 2009.

A majority (59%) is willing to act on this concern by choosing more often to buy a “somewhat more expensive item with traceability information” over one that doesn’t.  

Shoppers are intent on knowing where their food comes from:  82% read country-of-origin labels found on or near fresh meat, fish, fruits and vegetables in food stores; the majority (56%) read them “all the time/almost all the time/frequently.”
These findings from the Deloitte 2011 Consumer Food and Product Insights Survey underscore the degree of shopper wariness about food sources and food integrity throughout the supply chain. The Lempert Report urges retailers to tell people in their trading areas how they work to protect food safety – this could differentiate and inspire confidence in their stores. Among these steps: the vetting of suppliers, high food-handling standards, active recall procedures and more.

Indeed, most consumers (56%) believe retailers should be responsible for communicating product recall information. That’s not as many as said manufacturers (73%) or government agencies (69%) are responsible, in this survey question that allowed multiple responses.

Asked to rate foods on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 representing an extreme safety concern, consumers considered fresh meat (50% rated this an 8, 9 or 10), fresh wild-caught seafood (48%), imported foods (47%), fresh farmed seafood (43%), and fresh fruits and vegetables (43%) as the riskiest foods.

Nearly half of consumers (47%) said they didn’t know enough about the Food Safety Modernization Act to express an opinion, while 25% felt “the system in place before January 1, 2011 needed to be updated; this Act sufficiently addresses that need.”