UK consumers have worried less about salt and additives this year and more about saturated fat in their food, according to the latest barometer of food views conducted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The FSA conducts a survey of consumer attitudes every quarter, in order to gauge awareness of and confidence in the FSA, attitude towards food safety issues, and concern about certain food issues. The latest survey took place in early September, and involved a sample of 2082 adults.
There were no particular increases in concern over specific food issues, but food safety has remained top of the worry list, with 52 per cent anxious about it. This was followed by food prices (48 per cent), fat in foods (46 per cent) and sugar in foods (45 per cent).
Salt, sugar and fat
The responses indicted that concern about salt, fat and sugar has remained broadly stable between September 2008, compared to the same month of 2007, but concern over salt dropped gradually from 50 to 45 per cent.
This is the lowest worry rate for salt observed since December 2003.
Likewise, concern over saturated and trans fat and folic acid fortification was not seen to change much, with the exception that unprompted mentions of saturated fat rose to around 7 per cent in March 2008, and have stayed high ever since.
Additives and children
Food additives were a major cause for concern in September 2007, when the Southampton study on the link between certain cocktails of food colours and hyperactivity in children was published.
However as the issue has slipped off the front page, concern has slipped significantly from 45 to 38 per cent.
Another area in which anxiety seems to be calming is in foods aimed at children, with a decrease from 37 to 32 per cent reported when prompted. The FSA says that this particular concern, together with that of the nutritional value of school meals, tends to fluctuate.
Certainly there have been some high profile campaigns over children’s diets in recent times – most notably the spotlight shone on school food by celebrity chef Jamie Olivier.
Consumer watchdog Which? has kept up pressure on nutritional content of foods for children, as well as advertising aimed at children; the food industry has repeatedly countered that it is implementing measures in accordance with guidance and legislation, and is seeing results.
The latest quarterly survey included a number of questions that have previously only been posed in annual surveys.
Amongst the responses to these questions was the correct view held by 78 per cent that people should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. This was about the same percentage as in the last annual survey.
Foods containing fat, and food and drinks containing sugar, were products that the most adults said they were trying to cut down on (25 and 16 per cent respectively).
In addition, 43 per cent of adults said they were trying to reduce their child’s consumption of sugary drinks, and 33 per cent were trying to reduce their child’s consumption of sugary foods.
In general the survey indicated that concern over food safety issues has remained stable since March this year, with 69 per cent saying they were concerned or very concerned about food safety issues.
Confidence in the FSA’s ability to safeguard health with respect to food safety has remained stable for the last two years, at around 61 per cent.