Food safety risks stick with consumers long-term, survey

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Food, United states

Food safety scares could result in a long lasting impact on
purchasing decisions, with new research revealing that 15 percent
of consumers stop eating a product entirely after a food safety

The findings come as the industry is already battling to recover from several cases of food poisoning in recent months, which resulted in serious illness and severe market consequences.

According to a new survey conducted last month, over one in ten adults say they or someone in their household have been affected by food poisoning, although only a third of these incidents were reported.

In the recent climate of heightened food safety awareness, 95 percent of Americans say that they follow food safety announcements to some extent. Out of these, 67 percent stop eating the product until they learn it is safe to do so.

Some 9 percent stop eating the product for some time, but do not look for additional information to see when it becomes safe to eat again. A similar number reported doing nothing at all, while over one in ten people stop eating the product entirely.

The online survey, conducted last month by Harris Interactive for the Wall Street Journal Online, gathered responses from over 2,000 American adults.

A majority of adults (58 percent) think the US Food and Drug Administration should be primarily responsible for setting the rules for food handling, production and packaging in order to ensure the safety of the products.

Fewer say the local department of health (12 percent) or the companies that produce and distribute food products (12 percent) should bear the responsibility.

In recent months, the fresh vegetable sector in the US was hard hit by an E.Coli outbreak linked to spinach.

This resulted in an immediate backlash from consumer and health groups, which called for tougher food safety laws for processors of produce. A survey by NPD Group found that in the aftermath of the outbreak, Americans' awareness and concern levels about the safety of produce reached an all-time high.

And after another E. coli outbreak in New York in fast food chain Taco Bell, a number of Democratic senators called for the establishment of a joint task force to suggest legal changes designed to prevent future problems.

Addressed to the heads of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), their letter last month called for a task force that would report to Congress and the public on the cause of the latest incidents and recommend changes in laws and regulations to protect future outbreaks.

According to USDA's Economic Research Service, hazards in food cause an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.

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