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Americans Heeding Food Safety Issues

Poll Shows Most U.S. Adults Have Avoided Buying Certain Foods Because of Food Recalls or Food Safety
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 3, 2007 -- Recent food safety advisories and food recalls are on the minds of many U.S. adults, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll of 1,001 U.S. adults was conducted from July 12-15. That's right before Castleberry's Food Company recalled some of its canned goods because of possible botulism contamination.

In the poll, participants were asked about actions they had taken in the past year as a direct result of a government food safety advisory or a product recall.

Specifically, they were asked if they had avoided buying certain brands or types of food, thrown out food or returned food to the store, or worried that they had eaten something that may have been contaminated.

They could say "yes" to more than one of those questions. For instance, if someone had worried, thrown out food, and avoided certain brands, they would have answered "yes" to all three questions.

Food Safety Reactions

Overall, 71% of poll participants reported taking at least one of those actions as a direct response to food safety issues in the past year.

Most participants -- 62% -- indicated that they had avoided buying certain brands or types of food. Fewer participants -- 40% -- reported throwing out or returning food to the store. More than one in four -- 26% -- said they had worried that they had eaten something contaminated.

In the poll, people rated how much confidence they had in the federal government to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply. They could choose one of several responses, ranging from "a great deal" of confidence to "none at all."

Most participants -- 53% -- indicated that they had "a fair amount of confidence" in the government's ability to ensure U.S. food safety. Eighteen percent expressed "a great deal" of confidence.

At the other end of the spectrum, 21% reported having "not much" confidence and 8% reported having no confidence at all in the government's ability to ensure U.S. food safety.

The 71% who expressed a "great deal" or "fair" amount of confidence is markedly lower than the 76% who voiced those views in Gallup's poll last year and down from the high point of 85% in Gallup's 2004 poll.

But that doesn't mean that people are fretting as they stroll through the supermarket.

Faith in Food Safety

When asked if they feel confident or not confident that the food available in most grocery stores is safe to eat, the vast majority of poll participants -- 82% -- reported feeling confident.

That's slightly lower than the 87% who expressed confidence in most grocery store food in Gallup's December 2006 poll.

Most participants -- 37% -- reported paying a "fair amount" of attention to food warnings. Another 28% indicated that they pay "a lot" of attention, 19% said they pay "some" attention, 10% said they pay "not too much" attention, and 6% said they pay no attention at all to food warnings.

Gallup reports that the poll's margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

  • Are there foods you have decided to avoid for safety reasons? Tell us about it on WebMD's Health Café message board.

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