Consumers' food safety concerns decline

by Keith Nunes
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NEW YORK — Nine out of 10 consumers believe the number of food recalls initiated are on the rise, according the consulting firm Deloitte’s 2010 Food Safety Survey. Despite the high number, the survey also showed that, compared to 2008, fewer consumers are concerned about the quality of the food they eat.

“The decline in consumers’ concern for quality from our 2008 survey is due, in part, by their need to become more aware and engaged in choosing the products they buy,” said Pat Conroy, Deloitte’s vice-chairman and U.S. consumer products practice leader. “Consumers view food safety and quality as important issues, and are looking to manufacturers, food companies and government regulatory bodies to drive communication, as well as tackle food quality and safety issues.”

The survey also found that 75% of the Americans surveyed believe food companies are responsible for communicating product recall information.

The Deloitte survey also looked at consumer usage of the Nutrition Facts Panel on food products. A strong interest in nutrition has caused consumers to reference the Nutritional Facts Panel on packaged/bottled foods when making a purchase, according to the survey. Fifty-four per cent of the Americans surveyed said they frequently or always read the Nutritional Facts Panel on an unfamiliar food or beverage item and 26% said they look at it occasionally, as compared to 15% rarely look at the panel and the 5% who never read it.

The top five nutrition facts that consumers report reading are: calories (71%), total fat (63%), sugars (50%), sodium (45%) and serving size (39%).

“Over the past two years, we have seen a significant shift in how consumers view the foods they purchase,” Mr. Conroy said. “Though our survey still shows health and safety as the top two concerns facing Americans, the percentages have dropped and consumers are using their increased knowledge of food products to raise concerns around over-processed foods. Food companies are now dealing with an engaged consumer who actively seeks to understand the products they are looking to buy. This survey should be yet another red flag for the industry, as it shows that consumers are determined to be smarter about the foods they put on their table.”

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