Almost 65% of Australians felt that food safety was the same or had improved during the previous year, according to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Consumer Attitude Survey launched this week.
When launching the survey today, FSANZ’s Chief Executive Officer, Steve McCutcheon, said that food plays a vital role in our lives and it is important for consumers to feel confident in how it is regulated.
“The survey, commissioned by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, gives a good insight into consumer confidence in the Australian and New Zealand food supply as well as food safety and labelling knowledge,” McCutcheon said.
“It shows that Australian consumers have positive levels of confidence in the safety of the food supply, with 64.5% saying they felt food safety generally was about the same or had improved during the previous year ago. Food safety concerns ranked twelfth after such issues as drought, household finances, the environment and healthy eating.
“Recognition of, and confidence levels in, those agencies regulating and monitoring the food supply were also high”.
“Consumer need for nutritional information on labels and their belief in their ability to make an informed decision about the product from the label were both high. Trust of food labels has room to move.
“The most commonly referred-to label information was the best before/use by date (73.1%), the amount of fat (61.8%), country of origin (59.1%) and the amount of sugar (56.5%).
The survey reveals that about a third of people believed they had suffered food poisoning in the previous year.
“The majority of these people didn’t report their illness and only about a tenth thought it had something to do with home cooking,” explained McCutcheon.
“Food poisoning such as Salmonella and E. Coli, imported foods and food hygiene were the three key concerns regarding general food issues”.
FSANZ, Australia’s peak food safety regulator, will use the information to better understand, prioritise and target consumer concerns. Outcomes of the research may also feed into specific standards development work.
“Consumer confidence in a safe food supply, and their ability to make an informed choice about the food they buy, are FSANZ’s key priorities,” said McCutcheon.
The Consumer Attitude Survey 2007 is available at https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/newsroom/publications/consumerattitiudes/index.cfm
A Snapshot of Australian results
1. Consumers ranked healthy eating fourth (23.4%) as a major concern below drought/water shortages, household finances/cost of living and pollution/environmental issues when compared to a range of other current social issues. Food safety was ranked twelfth (8.6%).
2. A large proportion (43%) of Australian consumers reported that they felt food safety generally had remained ‘about the same’ over the past year with a further 21.8% saying it was ‘a little worse’ and 21.5% saying it was ‘a little better’.
3. Overall, 61% of Australians were confident that the food supply as a whole was producing safe food for consumption.
4. 51% of consumers reported having concerns about the safety of particular types of foods. Fresh fruit/vegetables (24.7%), meat (unspecified) (18.8%) and raw chicken/poultry (17.9%) were the top three types of foods reported to be of concern.
5. When presented with a list of general food issues that are commonly of concern, food poisoning such as salmonella and E. Coli (48.4%), storage times of foods sold as ‘fresh’ (47.6%) and the safety of imported foods (38.2%) were the top three issues of concern nominated by respondents.
6. Almost one third of respondents (31.6%) thought they had had food poisoning in the last year. However, of that 31.6%, over half (59.7%) did not report their illness to anyone. Those that did report their illness most commonly reported it to their doctor, staff at the food outlet or person/household responsible for the food preparation.
7. FSANZ was spontaneously mentioned as having a role in food regulation and monitoring by 8% of respondents and State and Territory health departments/authorities by 30%. When prompted, awareness of FSANZ rose to 60.2%.
8. Overall, 54% of respondents expressed confidence in the current measures taken by the organisations regulating and monitoring food. Confidence in the work of FSANZ was significantly higher than that for all organisations regulating and monitoring food.
9. More respondents considered there should be a ‘high level of regulation’ to manage food safety (44%) compared with public health issues such as obesity (28%).
10. 33% of respondents who had a role in grocery shopping reported they ‘always’ referred to labelling information when purchasing a product for the first time. The best before/use by date (73.1%), the amount of fat (61.8%) and the country of origin (59.1%) were the top three types of information on a food label most commonly looked for.
11. Respondents who had a role in grocery shopping identified labels on food packaging (83.5%), fact sheets/brochures (36.1%) and the internet (33.2%) as the top three sources of information on the nutritional content of foods.
12. The majority of Australians (70%) expressed confidence in their ability to make an informed decision from the information provided on food labels. Trust was at a lower level with 48% of consumers feeling they could trust the information provided on food labels.
13. Most respondents (81%) reported knowledge about food hygiene/food safety in the home, and most (86%) felt they had some degree of control over food hygiene/food safety for food prepared at home. These high levels of knowledge and control translated into a very high level of overall confidence in food hygiene/food safety precautions at home, with 92.4% of respondents reporting some degree of confidence.
14. 62% of respondents indicated overall confidence that food hygiene/food safety precautions were sufficient when eating out. Confidence was highest that the food hygiene/food safety precautions were sufficient in local bakeries, restaurants and supermarkets/grocery stores. Confidence was lowest for temporary food stalls/food vans, sausage sizzles/fetes/community events and takeaway/fast food outlets.