Based on more than 3,000 face-to-face interviews with randomly-selected adults across the UK between March and August 2010, the survey also revealed that less than one-in-10 (9 per cent) correctly identified the maximum adult daily intake of salt was 6g.
More positively, the survey found that most respondents rated a variety of factors as important for a healthy lifestyle: 99% said eating fruit and vegetables was very or fairly important. 94% said that eating less salt was important and 92% said that limiting foods high in saturated fat was important.
Andrew Wadge, FSA chief scientist, said: “Food and You was designed to help us understand what influences people’s behaviour in relation to food and to chart whether people follow government advice. Subsequent waves will enable us to assess food behaviour changes over time, which will be extremely useful to the Agency as we think about the areas of our work that we need to prioritise.”
The next Food and You survey will take place in 2012.
Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that most respondents claimed to follow recommended practices in relation to cleaning, cross-contamination, chilling and cooking food.
For example, 84% of respondents claimed that they always wash their hands before preparing food.
But despite FSA advice not to wash raw meat and poultry, 41% said that they always washed raw meat and poultry while 42% wash raw fish and seafood.
Only 46% of people were able to correctly identify the temperature of a fridge as ranging between 0 and 5°C.
Uncertainty also surrounded the best way to judge whether food was safe to eat. 72 per cent of respondents said they often used smell while 56 per cent said they used visual appraisal to judge if food was safe to eat.
The recommended method of checking the use-by date was identified by only a quarter of people.
The survey was carried out by research agency TNS-BMRB, the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) and the University of Westminster carried out the first wave of Food and You on behalf of the Agency.
Respondents’ judgments about the types and proportions of foods needed for a healthy balanced diet were based on the FSA’s eatwell plate - a pictorial representation of a healthy balanced diet.
It was commissioned in 2009, before the responsibility for nutrition policy moved from the FSA to the Department of Health in England and to the Assembly Government in Wales.
No one from the Department of Health, which now carries responsibility for the report, was able to comment on the survey.