Today, the International Food Information Council Foundation released its fourth annual Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food, Nutrition, and Health. The survey covers a wide range of food and health topics, and some of the results pertaining to food safety are particularly interesting.
While foodborne illness outbreaks have been top-of-mind for consumers, the research shows that fewer people are taking basic precautions that could potentially reduce their risk. The good news is that nearly all Americans (95%) say they are regularly taking at least one food safety precaution when cooking, preparing, or consuming food, but when asked about individual precautions the numbers are down since 2008. The precautions that are down include such things as washing hands with soap and water, storing leftovers within two hours of serving, and separating raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat food. These actions become especially important as the weather gets warmer, a time when cookouts and picnics become commonplace.
Consumers were also asked who they believe is responsible for food safety in the U.S., and while most feel that food manufacturers and then the government play leading roles, many indicate that it’s a shared responsibility also including farmers/producers, retailers/food service, and themselves (consumers/individuals) as playing a role. While some of these results related to responsibility are not surprising, I am encouraged to see that we as consumers include ourselves as having a key role in the safety of our food supply. I think it is absolutely a shared responsibility and feel this is critical for everyone to understand. If consumers incorporate even just one additional precaution such as using a meat thermometer to make sure food is cooked to proper temperature, I feel confident that their risk of foodborne illness could be minimized. As we approach the Memorial Day weekend, a fantastic opportunity presents itself to reinforce messages like wash, separate, cook, and chill to consumers, letting them know that every little bit helps reduce their risk.
This year’s survey results provide everyone, from farm to table, a shared opportunity to raise awareness on safe food handling. The findings are part of an extensive look at what Americans are doing regarding their eating and health habits. For more findings from this survey, please visit: http://www.ific.org/research/foodandhealthsurvey.cfm.
Director, Food Safety Communications
International Food Information Council (IFIC)