Confidence in food safety remains steady

For the past three years, consumer confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply has remained steady with 47 percent of consumers rating themselves as confident in the safety of the U.S. foods, according to the fifth annual "2010 Food & Health Survey," conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC). Those not confident in the safety of food and beverages fell significantly in 2010, down to 18 percent from 24 percent in 2009, and those who are neither confident nor unconfident increased to 35 percent from 26 percent in 2009. When asked to identify the most important food safety issue today, 44 percent identified foodborne illness from bacteria as the No. 1 issue, a decrease compared with the 2009 survey. It's notable that 39 percent identified "chemicals in food" as the most important food safety issue, an increase compared with 2009. The survey did not cite specific chemicals in the questionnaire.

As in previous years, the survey of 1,024 adults showed there is consistency in consumers' beliefs that food safety is primarily the responsibility of government (74 percent) and industry (70 percent). Overall, approximately one-third of the respondents (31 percent) see food safety as a shared responsibility among five or more stakeholders that include farmers and producers, retailers and consumers themselves. Consumers primarily are getting their food safety information from television news programming (43 percent), and the Internet (32 percent). Information from government agencies or officials was cited by 14 percent.

On the downside, there has been a decline in basic consumer food safety practices such as washing hands with soap and water (89 percent in 2010 vs. 92 percent in 2008). The same decline also was identified in microwave food safety practices, where 69 percent in 2010 (compared with 79 percent in 2008) follow all of the cooking instructions.