NEW YORK — Ninety-three per cent of U.S. consumers have read or heard reports of recent food safety issues and recalls, according to a U.S. consumer study by Burson-Marsteller and Penn Schoen & Berland Associates. In addition, almost a fourth of Americans said the recalls will change their long-term food buying behavior.

"While most food producers take significant measures every day to protect our food, this should serve as a wakeup call to companies — now is the time to perform a checkup on your crisis communications plan," said Bill Zucker, managing director and food issues expert at Burson-Marsteller. "The good news for food companies is that there are some key actions they can take to regain the trust of consumers should an outbreak occur. But those actions require advanced preparation."

The study also found while about two-thirds of Americans believe instances of food contamination have increased during the last five years, 87% still somewhat or strongly agree that the United States has one of the strongest food safety systems in the world. In addition, companies with strong brand awareness are more likely to withstand an incident of food contamination than a lesser known company.

In addition, 49% of mothers said they are avoiding products with peanut butter ingredients even if the products are not on the government’s recall list. Sixty-five per cent of consumers said during a food contamination outbreak they change their short-term food buying habits but not their long-term behavior. However, 23% of consumers said the most recent food scare will change their long-term food purchasing habits.