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Americans call for government to improve food safety

By Joe Whitworth+

07-Feb-2014
Last updated on 07-Feb-2014 at 12:06 GMT

Food recalls concern US consumers - Harris Poll
Food recalls concern US consumers - Harris Poll

Almost three-quarters of Americans believe there should be more government oversight on food safety.

73% strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with a statement saying there should be more government oversight on the subject, according to a Harris Poll.  

Half of those surveyed said they hold the firm who packaged/processed the food responsible for more health and safety issues in recent years.

Government was next with 19%, those responsible for growing/raising food (16%) and then consumers for wanting food to be as cheap as possible (6%).

Food safety effects

61% said because of food safety concerns they try to buy as much food locally as possible.

Just over half believed that food safety issues are an inevitable side effect of low food costs.

The survey was conducted online within the US between January 15 and 20, 2013 among 2,236 adults by the Nielsen polling company.

40% worried more about the safety of produce (fruit and vegetables) than meat and dairy products.

Good and bad – CSPI

Progress has been made in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) but major implementation challenges remain three years after it was signed into law, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The group said many important provisions of FSMA are already in effect but FDA has yet to finalize several important rules.

The agency has the authority to recall contaminated food, if companies fail to do this voluntarily.  

FDA can detain products that might be a food safety hazard and suspend the registration of any food processing or manufacturing facility if it believes the company is producing risky food.

“A regulation requiring food manufacturers to adopt written preventive control plans, due 18 months after the enactment of FSMA, is still unfinished.  And an important regulation establishing science-based safety standards for fresh produce is also almost a year overdue,” said the group.

Customer loyalty?

Food recalls were a serious concern or somewhat concerned 86% of those surveyed, the same number as a 2007 poll.

Women were more likely than men to be concerned with 20% of men saying food recalls do not concern them at all.

Adults are divided on whether there have been more health and/or safety prompted food recalls recently than in the past few years (43%) or if their frequency has remained about the same (50%).

55% of all adults said they would go back to purchasing a recalled brand once it was safe, temporarily purchasing another brand.

17% said they would avoid using any brand made by the manufacturer of a recalled product, which was down 4% on 2007 results.

If the recall was of a brand they usually purchase, 16% would purchase another brand and never purchase the recalled brand again.

“Despite the progress that has been made, the historic reform law will not yield its full benefits until the agency finalizes those long overdue food safety regulations,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI food safety director.  

“But it is also important that the FDA get the details right,” she added.

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