No returning to foods perceived as unsafe for nearly 40%, finds survey

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Respondents were asked 'Once you’ve decided a food is unsafe, what do you do?'
Respondents were asked 'Once you’ve decided a food is unsafe, what do you do?'

Related tags: Food safety

Almost 40% of people said there was no returning to foods they perceive as unsafe, according to a survey by Hahn Public’s Food and Farm communications team.

Out of remaining respondents, it found some will return over time (24%) but most said it will require some form of trusted evidence it is safe (39%).

Respondents who said they’ll never eat a food again had more concern about canned foods and major brands.

How to win consumers back

Third-party health experts were found to be the most able to influence consumers.

Answer choices were provided and respondents could choose up to three.

Other information that helps decide a food was safe again was proactive response by the company (37%), feedback from people they know (29.2%) and new government regulations (22.9%).

An apology by the company (11.9%) and refunds or rebates (8.6%) were at the bottom of the list.

Hahn Public fielded a 10-question survey on the Google Consumer Surveys network from 6-8 May.

Out of 850 completed surveys, 650 had demographic information (age, gender, region of the US, income level) allowing for weighting.

The report was compiled by Mike Clark-Madison, VP of research and Jenny Gregorcyk, food segment leader at Hahn Public Communications.

Meat and seafood concerns

Respondents were more likely to be concerned about meat (42%) and seafood (46%).

Answer choices were again provided and three choices allowed, as prepared take-out foods (34%), dairy and fresh produce (24%) and canned foods (13%) made up the list.

Findings aligned with prior research but do not match actual experience of foodborne disease outbreaks reported by the Centers for Disease Control, where fresh produce and dairy products are more commonly responsible, said Hahn Public.

No obvious relationship between the questions and whether respondents reported having suffered from foodborne illnesses was found, according to the survey.

Consumers reported being concerned slightly more often than not (5.2 average on a 10-point scale) with the safety of food they ate.

Women reported higher levels of concern than men (5.6 average vs. 4.9) and lower income level respondents were more concerned than middle and upper income level respondents (6 for individual incomes below $25,000; 5 for incomes up to $50,000; 5.2 for incomes above that).

In response to the question: ‘Which of these attributes are more likely to help you feel a food is safe to eat?’ respondents were more confident in the safety of food grown or produced locally from the choice of answers.

‘Popular with people I know’ was the least likely, found the survey.  

Hahn said its next study on food safety will look at the importance of attitudes about production and processing techniques, do the types of foods viewed as safe or unsafe change with more awareness of the safety challenges posed and do personal experiences with foodborne illness have a persistent effect on attitudes.

The group will also look at best practices for brands attempting to recover from a food safety crisis through examining cases where third-party health experts and proactive responses were deployed and how they translated into a brand recovery.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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