Consumers turn to social media over government agencies for health advice, Ajinomoto, YouGov report

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Ajinomoto
Source: Ajinomoto

Related tags Ajinomoto

In seeking nutrition information, many consumers have fallen victim to harmful food myths — including embracing a diet of raw meat and avoiding healthy foods because they have "chemicals" — according to a new report from food ingredient company Ajinomoto and market research firm YouGov.

"Food should be a source of joy and connection, but misinformation can divide us. Our goal with this report is to shed light on the wide range of conflicting — and often bizarre — information flooding our social media feeds. Ultimately, we hope to inspire more thoughtful and inclusive food exploration and encourage people to check qualified sources and rely on the science,” TiaRains, VP of science, innovation and corporate affairs at Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition of North America, said in a press release​.  

Consumers are confused about where to go for nutrition information, embrace misinformation

Ajinomoto and YouGov surveyed more than 3,000 US consumers in a 15-minute online survey about where they obtain diet and health information and how it impacts what they consume.

The survey found that 55% of consumers do not know who they can believe when it comes to healthy eating, and 43% said they never felt more uncertain about what they eat. Younger generations are more likely to be uncertain about their food choices, with 51% of Gen Z and Millennial consumers saying they are uncertain, compared to 37% of Gen Zers and 35% of Baby Boomers who said the same thing.

Additionally, most consumers (71%) admitted following food behaviors and beliefs that are not based on science, and 55% of total respondents said they believe they have likely been a food and nutrition misinformation victim.

Social media becomes a bastion for food, nutrition misinformation

Despite not knowing who to trust for healthy eating information, 52% of survey respondents admitted to obtaining their information from social, and 24% of consumers trust social media influencers over governmental agencies.

Many consumers have embraced food habits that are not based on science, Ajinomoto reported. Nearly a third (30%) of consumers tried or considered trying putting garlic up their nose for congestion relief and 14% said eating cheese gives you nightmares, which were both false claims spread via social media.  

Additionally, consumers are concerned about "chemicals" used in foods and beverages, even though all foods contain chemicals.

More than half (56%) of consumers said they avoid eating or drinking anything that contains chemicals, and 47% avoid purchasing food made with ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Most consumers (64%) said that would avoid consuming dihydrogen monoxide — the chemical name for water.

Consumers' lack of understanding of food science and chemistry also is contributing to the rise of unhealthy and dangerous diets. Almost a quarter (22%) of respondents said that they would try the raw meat diet, despite the FDA warning against the consumption of raw meat.  

Long-held myths about certain food ingredients are also hard to trace, with 62% of consumers who think MSG is unsafe or are unsure where they picked up that information. Ajinomoto is a supplier of MSG ingredients and has worked to dismiss the pseudo-science​ that led to the fear of the ingredient. 

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