Latest consumer attitudes survey suggests increased consumer confidence around many food issues
Sunday 24 February 2008
The eighth annual Consumer Attitudes to Food Survey1 published today by the Food Standards Agency, points to increased confidence among the public in the food they are consuming and to wider food issues.
Since the initial survey in 2000, the number of people concerned about issues such as food poisoning, additives and food safety in general has stayed steady, but the latest survey reveals the first dip in the number of people who are concerned about many food safety issues. The results reveal some other encouraging trends, particularly relating to increased awareness and claimed consumption of ‘five-a-day’.
Highlights of the latest survey relating to food safety include:
- A decrease since 2006 in concern over many food safety issues including additives (35% down from 38%), food poisoning (36% down from 42%), GM foods (20% down from 25%)
- Food labels remain important to shoppers looking for a range of information such as ‘best before’ dates, allergy advice and additives in foods. Half of respondents said they check some form of labelling information when buying food
- Almost half of respondents in the survey did not know the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ dates on food2
Highlights relating to diet and nutrition include:
- More than three quarters (78%) of consumers are now aware that we should be eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day3 and 58%, also an improvement on last year, claimed to be putting this into practice by eating at least ‘5-a-day’4
- The amount of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar in foods are still the top issues of concern among consumers and the quantity of fat and salt are the most commonly checked for nutritional information on labels.5 However, the percentage of people who are concerned about these is slightly down since 2006 - fat to 40% from 46%, saturated fat to 37% from 44%, salt to 50% from 54% and sugar to 39% from 43% in 2006
- Nine out of ten respondents claimed that healthy eating is important to them, and 87% also believed that a limited budget is not a barrier to healthy eating, with those aged over 50 more likely to agree with this sentiment than any younger age group6
Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency, commented: 'This most recent survey is encouraging as it shows the majority of people do realise how important it is to eat healthily, and many are also savvy when it comes to shopping around and checking labels.
'A dip in concern over many food safety issues could point to growing consumer confidence in the regulation of the food industry. Alternatively, it might indicate a decreasing awareness of the importance of food hygiene – and this is something we will be addressing during Food Safety Week in June.
'However, what appears to be a drop in concern about how much fat and salt there is in our food, shows how critical it is that the Agency continues to raise awareness around a healthier diet and provides clear information and advice, backed up by scientific evidence.'
Along with monitoring awareness of key food issues, the Consumer Attitudes Survey also tracks awareness of the FSA and its role in providing clear consumer advice. Figures of note include:
- Consumer awareness of the FSA remains at a constant high of 82%. Trust in the FSA is also high at 60%, up from 44% when this question was first asked in 2001
- 65% of consumers are now describing themselves as confident in the Agency's ability to protect health with regards to food safety, compared with 50% in 2000
- A third of consumers view the FSA as an organisation that they would go to for information on food safety and food scares, and one in five cited the Agency as a source of advice on healthy eating
1 The latest wave of the Consumer Attitudes Survey was conducted between August and October 2007. A total of 2,627 people were interviewed.
2 Only 55% correctly identified the correct meaning of use-by dates (down from 61% in 2007) and 51% correctly identified the correct meaning of best before dates.
3 In 2000 43% correctly understood the meaning of ‘5-a-day’; this has risen to 78% in 2007.
4 58% now claim to be eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day. This is up from 55% in 2006.
5 When checking labels on products bought for the first time, 42% say they usually look for the amount of fat (down from 49% in 2006), 38% look for the amount of salt (down from 40% in 2006), 29% look for sugar (the same as in 2006) and 21% look for saturated fat (down from 24% in 2006).
6 66% of 50 to 65 year-olds and 71% of those aged over 66 agreed, ‘even if you are on a limited budget you can still eat healthily’ compared to (at most) 57% among the younger age bands.
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