A majority of Americans (62 percent) reports avoiding certain brands or types of food within the past year as a direct result of a government food safety advisory or product recall, according to a new survey conducted by Gallup. Four in ten say such advisories or recalls have compelled them to discard food or return it to a store and roughly a quarter say they worried that something they ate may have been contaminated. Overall, 71 percent of Americans report one or more of these experiences in the past year.
But Americans have not reached a tipping point with food safety concerns. Most Americans continue to express confidence in the safety of food in the nation’s grocery stores and restaurants, as well as in the federal agencies responsible for ensuring the safety of the food supply. However that confidence tends to be on the low side of the range Gallup has seen over the past decade.
The percentage of Americans saying they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the federal government to ensure the safety of the food supply is currently 71 percent, significantly lower than the previous low of 76 percent recorded a year ago as well as the high point of 85 percent in 2004.
At 82 percent, current confidence in the food available at grocery stores is on the low end of the range of 80 percent to 89 percent found since 1999.
Nearly two-thirds of the public indicates paying at least a fair amount of attention to “the food warnings and nutritional recommendations” in the news, but this includes only 28 percent paying “a lot” of attention.
According to Gallup, “In one sense, food recalls indicate the surveillance system for the nation’s food supply is working: that U.S. food inspection agencies are detecting contaminants at the source, as with the recent advisory on Chinese seafood; health monitoring agencies are identifying and tracking patterns in foodborne illnesses, as with last year’s outbreak of salmonella from packaged spinach; and companies are acting quickly to get suspected products off of store shelves, as with a recent recall of Castleberry’s Food Company’s canned meats and chili).
“At the same time, the number of high-profile product recalls issued over the past year might be expected to alarm consumers about the safety of the food they buy.”