Old Appetites Die Hard
Not Even Reports Of Possible Risks Change Our Habits
Source of Article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/03/AR2009020300486.html
By Jane Black
always keeps peanut butter crackers in the car for her children to snack on.
There has been
a steady drumbeat of high-profile food safety scares in the past several
years: spinach, ground beef, tomatoes (later exonerated), jalapeņo peppers and
now products traced to a
"People might make the connection for the short term," said Harry Balzer, vice president of NPD Group, a market research firm. "But your taste buds are very, very difficult to change."
There seems to be little connection between rising concerns and consumer eating habits. Regular E. coli scares boosted the percentage of adults who were very worried about the germ from 21 percent in 2002 to 32 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, the percentage planning to eat fewer hamburgers has hovered steadily around 30 percent. The same is true with regard to fears about mercury in seafood. The number of adults aware of and concerned about the problem jumped from 58 percent in 2003 to 69 percent in 2008, while the percentage who say they plan to eat less fish or avoid seafood entirely has remained between 20 percent and 22 percent.
posit several theories about why the scares have so little impact on consumer
behavior. One is that learned helplessness is in play. The modern
distribution system is so complex and confusing that consumers might believe
that taking action would be nearly impossible, says Lynn Kahle,
a consumer psychologist at the
salmonella-tainted peanut products are a case in point. Few consumers, if
any, had heard of the Peanut Corporation of
the peanut scare might not prompt change may be that many consumers believe
processed foods are safe. "Processed food has an antiseptic quality to
it," says Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at
other name-brand peanut butter companies have not been affected. But some of
the nation's biggest food manufacturers have recalled more than 100 products
made with ingredients from the Peanut Corporation of
For some consumers, food-safety alarms are enough to prompt them to eat differently. Years ago, Germantown resident Ellen Robin says, she would buy ground beef in bulk, but E. coli scares and reports of antibiotics and hormones in meat made her switch to organic meat and milk. Robin even seeks out organic condiments, such as ketchup, that don't contain high-fructose corn syrup, which according to two recent studies can contain mercury. "All these recalls, they do make you stop and think. You have to be more conscious," she says.
Although she is moving away from processed foods and those of indeterminable origin, Robin admits that changing habits takes time. She still buys instant oatmeal that contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a common source of trans fats, because it's a good way to get her daughter to eat whole grains. And though she tries to make soups from scratch, she pulled an instant one from her pantry this week because her daughter was at home sick, and Robin couldn't leave to buy ingredients.
the decision about whether to change food-buying behavior is an entirely
Copyright (C) All rights reserved under FoodHACCP.com
If you have any comments, please send your