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US food fears in line with ‘war on terror’ concerns

By Neil Merrett , 17-Mar-2009
Last updated on 17-Mar-2009 at 18:20 GMT

A new survey suggests that a majority of US consumers are equally concerned over food safety within the country as they are with the ongoing ‘war on terror’.

In a survey of over two thousand US adults conducted by the American Society for Quality (ASQ), 73 percent of respondents said at the very least that they were 'concerned' over the country’s food safety record.

The group added that 47 percent of consumers questioned believed US food safety was a serious concern facing the country. However, the findings suggest that an equal percentage of interviewees said they would purchase a recalled branded product once it had been cleared as being safe.

Food fears

Over the last few months, a number of safety scares has rocked the US food industry with some processors linked to concerns like E. coli in ground beef, melamine in infant formula and salmonella in peanut butter.

In the survey, which gauged the opinions of 2,078 US consumers over 18 years of age, ASQ said that only 39 percent believed current processes for food recalls in the country were excellent or good.

“Many Americans appear dissatisfied with the process and controls that are currently in place,” stated the ASQ report.

As a reflection of these fears, the report concludes that 82 percent of respondents wish to see food policy in the country fall in line with international safety requirements. A similar percentage of respondents also believed that the federal government should have the power to select agencies for inspecting food.

“Despite a large majority believing that the government should select these agencies, only about half [of respondents] (48 percent) say that they actually trust the government’s ability to ensure the safety of food products,” stated the ASQ in its findings. “The food industry itself is not held in high regard when associated with food recalls.”

Legal responsibility

Although ASQ suggests that fears regarding food safety were not up to concerns relating to the economy and energy costs, the survey found that only one in five respondents thought enough was being done to protect consumers. In apparent disapproval of industry, the survey found 93 percent were in support of food manufacturers, growers or suppliers facing legal responsibility for causing any fatal sickness.

In terms of demographics, ASQ said that women were found to be more concerned over safety than men, with 80 percent of women surveyed being at the least 'concerned' about the safety of the US food supply. Only 65 percent of men interviewed shared these sentiments, said the report.

Older respondents were also seen as having stronger concern over food safety than their younger counterparts, with 56 percent of consumers over 45 suggesting food recalls are a serious concern to them, according to the survey.

“The youngest generations are more likely to trust the government to ensure the safety of food products,” stated the report. “Nearly two-thirds of those aged 18 to 34 agree that the federal government does a good job of ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply, compared to less than half of those in older generations agreeing with this statement.”

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