of Article: http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/2009/07/articles/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/consumer-trust-in-food-safety-in-the-us-plummets-because-of-rise-in-recalls/
A little over two weeks
ago, IBM released the results of a survey that it had conducted among adult
grocery shoppers in the ten largest cities in the United States (100 in
each city). The survey was intended to gather opinions about food safety
issues, and what it found is as disappointing as it is not surprising. For
example, less than 20% of consumers trust food companies to develop and
sell food products that are self and healthy. Moreover, 60% of consumers
are concerned about the safety of the food that they purchase. And the
cause of this significant drop in trust? The rise in food recalls linked to
contaminated and unsafe food products. According to the survey results, 83%
of the people surveyed were able to name a food product that had been
recalled in the last years, with nearly half (46%) naming peanut butter as
a recently recalled product.
The irony here is that
the rise in contamination-related recalls can be explained, in large part,
by the drive for greater profits through: the use of cheaper ingredients
purchased from suppliers willing to cut-corners (see, e.g. Peanut
Corporation of America and its customer Kelloggs); the failure to update
and maintain manufacturing facilities to ensure the highest standards of
safety (see, e.g., Cargill and its peanut butter plant); insufficient
product testing and quality control (see, e.g. Dole baged Spinach);
and over-reliance on the consumer to cook the product
"properly" as a means of making it safe, when it
should have been safe to begin with (see, e.g., Banquet pot pies
and Topps-brand and American Chef's Selection brand frozen ground
beef patties). But by putting profits above safety, food
manufacturers are trading short term gains for long term losses. If
consumers lose trust in manufactured food products, they will stop buying
them. Look, for example, at peanut butter sales, which still
have not recovered, and may never do so.
To read the full press
release discussing the survey results, please click on Continue Reading.
Armonk, NY -- - 24 Jun
2009: A new IBM (NYSE: IBM) study reveals that less than 20 percent of
consumers trust food companies to develop and sell food products that are
safe and healthy for themselves and their families. The study also shows
that 60 percent of consumers are concerned about the safety of food they
purchase, and 63 percent are knowledgeable about the content of the food
The survey of 1,000
consumers in the 10 largest cities nationwide shows that consumers are
increasingly wary of the safety of food purchased at grocery stores, and
their confidence in – and trust of – food retailers, manufacturers and
grocers is declining.
Impact of Recalls
83 percent of respondents
were able to name a food product that was recalled in the past two years
due to contamination or other safety concerns. Nearly half of survey
respondents – 46 percent – named peanut butter, the staple of school
lunches for children across the nation, as the most recognizable recall.
Spinach came in a distant second, with 15 percent awareness nearly two
years after the incident.
Consumers are proving to
be extra cautious in purchasing food products after a recall. 49 percent of
the respondents would be less likely to purchase a food product again of it
was recalled due to contamination. 63 percent of respondents confirmed they
would not buy the food until the source of contamination had been found and
addressed. Meanwhile, eight percent of respondents said they would never
purchase the food again, even after the source of contamination was found
These findings underscore
how the rise in recalls and contamination has significantly eroded consumer
confidence in food and product safety, as well as with the companies that
manufacture and distribute these products.
63 percent of respondents
report they have purposefully changed their grocery shopping behavior in
the past two years because they wanted better value for their money. And
almost half have changed shopping behavior to access fresher foods (45
percent) or better quality foods (43 percent).
today's economy, if consumers are going to pay a little extra for a branded
or organic product, they want to be assured that they're paying for
something different and better quality,” said Guy Blissett, Consumer
Products Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value. “Across the board,
consumers are demanding transparency and more information about the food
they purchase to ensure their safety and that of their families. As the
government, industry associations, retailers and manufacturers work through
the operational issues associated with ensuring food safety, we can each
become more aware and take greater responsibility for the food we
Where is my Food
The survey found that
over the past two years, consumer appetite for information about food
products increased. 77 percent of consumers want more information about the
content of the food products they purchase, and 76 percent would like more
information about its origin. 74 percent are willing to dig deeper and seek
more data about how the food products are grown, processed and
manufactured. Despite industry efforts to keep consumers informed with more
detailed product information, there’s still a significant gap between
consumer expectations and what retailers/manufacturers are providing.
The survey also found
that consumers are spending more time poring over food labels to know which
ingredients were used, questioning supermarkets and product manufactures
about product detail, paying closer attention to expiration dates, and
doing more in depth background checks on specific food brands and their
origin. This will have an even bigger impact as the younger, more Internet
savvy generation of consumers evolve into being the primary purchasers of
An estimated 76 million people in the United States get sick every year
with food borne illness and 5,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Food safety is top of mind for governments,
retailers, manufacturers and consumers alike, and in fact, President
Obama’s proposed budget includes $1 billion for the FDA to spend on
improving food safety. More than 600 bills addressing food safety have been
introduced in state legislatures since January 2009.
"The ability to
trace a contaminated product all the way back to the source of production
is key to modernizing our food industry. It would also allow producers to
more precisely identify the source of a problem in order to improve
production practices and could help narrow the scope of recalls by more
quickly identifying the specific plant or country of origin," said
Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety, Center for Science in the
Are Food Retailers
and Manufacturers Looking Out for me?
55 percent of respondents
trust food manufacturers when handling a recall in the event that a food
product is contaminated, indicating a decrease in their level of trust over
the past two years. Meanwhile, 72 percent said they trust the store where
they buy groceries to properly handle food product contamination recalls.
57 percent of consumers
report they’ve stopped purchasing certain foods, even for a short time, within
the past two years due to safety considerations.
Responsibility: “Smart” Recommendations for Consumers:
Seek out other concerned
consumers: connect with those interested in food safety issues. Share
information and insights with others.
Make yourself known:
Speak up and let your local grocery know you’d be interested in more
information on the products they are selling and their origins. Grocers
want to listen; they are in a very competitive marketplace. Research from
IBM shows 75 percent of consumers are dissatisfied with their grocer.
Ask your retailer: Assess
who provides more information about the products they sell. This is being
accomplished through in store kiosk and touch screen computers and
Read the packaging
closely: Some products are providing more information than ever, including
specific details on the farm where ingredients were grown.
Leverage the Internet and visit consumer products company websites to learn
more about the companies and processes behind the products you buy.
Companies are providing a wealth of background information on their
products to gain consumer credibility and shift consumer attitude.
IBM conducted a survey of
adult grocery shoppers (once a month or more) in the 10 largest U.S. cities
during June 2009. The study is intended to gather grocery shoppers’
opinions about food safety issues. The survey was fielded by Survey
Sampling International (SSI) using random samples from their managed online
panels in: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Forth Worth, Houston, Los
Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, and
Washington, DC. Cities were identified using Nielsen Designated Market
Areas (DMA). There are 1,000 responses in the final dataset – 100 in each
city. IBM was not identified as the sponsor of the study. The results have
a 3.1-point margin of error overall (95% confidence level).