Food safety fears reflected in contents of supermarket trolleys

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Percent, Supermarket

Over a third of consumers have stopped purchasing certain food
items over the past year, due to concerns over their safety,
according to a new survey by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

Released this week at the FMI trade show in Chicago, USGrocery Shopper Trends 2007​ reveals that 38 percent of consumers have stopped buying certain fresh produce and meat items, a significant increase from 9 percent in 2006. The items most often avoided were spinach (cited by 71 percent of those consumers who adjusted their food purchasing habits due to food scares), lettuce (16 percent), bagged salad (9 percent) and beef (8 percent). Over the last year, there have been huge contamination outbreaks associated with spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and peanut butter. The FMI survey was conducted in January 2007, when the outbreak linked to spinach was still in the news and illnesses associated with other foods were starting to make headlines. A new report published last month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals a 50 percent increase in E coli infections since 2004, and a monstrous 78 percent increase in Vibrio infections - caused by eating raw shellfish - over the past decade. The center estimates that 76 million Americans get sick and 5,000 die from foodborne hazards each year in the United States. In light of the abundance of safety slips in the food supply recently, it is no surprise that consumers' fears are starting to be seen in the supermarket trolley. According to the FMI survey, another big worry for the nation's consumers is the imminent introduction of products from cloned animals into the food chain. Some 61 percent of respondents said they were "not comfortable"​ with cloned products, while 31 percent claimed to be "not at all comfortable".​ In addition, if such products are sold commercially, 84 percent of consumers believe cloned foods should be labeled as such. Six in 10 hold this view "strongly"​. Other issues examined in the trends survey include the impact of higher energy costs on consumer purchasing, a consumer 'dual store' shopping strategy, consumer spending averages, and consumer views on diets. Data from a nationally representative sample of 2,307 US shoppers was collected by Harris Poll online for US Grocery Shopper Trends 2007.​ In order to participate in the survey, respondents must have been a minimum of 15 years of age, having primary or equally shared responsibility for food shopping, and they must have shopped for groceries in the past two weeks.

Related topics: Suppliers, Food safety and labeling

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