Over half of those interviewed would like to see more measures such as bans and strict regulations to make foods safer and protect consumers, found the survey.
Professor Dr Andreas Hensel, president of the BfR, said the contradictory assessment shows that the context in which consumers are asked about food safety is decisive.
"When consumers are asked in the context of general food risks, a majority sees food as safe,” he said.
“However, if the question is put to them in the context of a topic which is publicly discussed predominantly in terms of its risk aspect as is the case with antimicrobial resistance and pesticides, a high degree of concern about food safety becomes apparent."
Consumers rate climate change and/or environmental pollution as the most significant risks to health. They are seen as worse than smoking. These are followed by malnutrition and alcohol consumption.
Compared to the previous year, more people see malnutrition as more of a health risk than alcohol consumption. However, unhealthy and contaminated foods are seen as more relevant than the year before.
Regarding food safety respondents were, as in 2015, concerned about antimicrobial resistance, closely followed by genetically modified foods and pesticide residues.
While microbial contamination is perceived as an important health risk, significantly fewer participants were worried about it than in the previous one. As last year, respondents are least concerned about food hygiene in their own household.
Findings come from the third BfR consumer monitor conducted in February and collating more than 1,000 responses.