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Surveys Ask Americans How Much Confidence They Place in Safety of Food Supply

June 13, 2008 -- How much faith do you put in the nation's food supply?

A multistate salmonella outbreak caused by tainted tomatoes grabbed headlines this week; if that left you wary, read on.

The Harvard School of Public Health is releasing the results of a national survey on food safety, conducted before the FDA issued a warning on tainted tomatoes.

Between May 12 and June 1, 2008, researchers surveyed 1,509 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

The researchers found that at the time surveyed, 13% were very worried about becoming infected or getting ill from food, 25% were somewhat worried, 38% were not too worried, and 24% were not at all worried.

The survey showed that although respondents believe that food in the U.S. is either very safe (37%) or somewhat safe (58%), the tables were turned when the question was asked about food from other countries.

  • 56% of respondents believe that food from China is not too safe or not at all safe.
  • 47% of those polled thought that food from Mexico is not too safe or not at all safe.

Meat producers and restaurants did not win accolades for perceived safety.

  • 58% of respondents had "only some" or "very little" confidence in meat producers to keep food safe.
  • 55% had "only some" or "very little" confidence in restaurants to keep food safe.

"With growing globalization of the food supply, Americans are likely to worry more about the safety of the food they eat," according to statements from Robert J. Blendon, project director at Harvard's School of Public Health. "At the moment, many are not confident that the system for protecting their food is working as well as it should."

A separate survey commissioned by Deloitte Consulting LLP indicates growing concern over food safety.

Seventy-three percent of those polled believe that food recalls have increased during the past year.

Researchers conducted an April 21 online survey of 1,110 people. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Have you ever stopped eating a food because of a recall?

The Deloitte study found you are not alone, with 57% of respondents saying a recent recall prompted them to stop eating a certain food either temporarily or permanently.

The most worries were about beef, chicken, fruits and vegetables, and dairy.

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