Even with frequent food safety outbreaks and recalls,
concern levels about the safety of the U.S. food supply remain relatively
constant with temporary spikes when news of an outbreak occurs, according to The NPD Group
a leading market research firm. NPD’s Food
, which continually tracks
consumer awareness and concern about food safety issues, shows that for the
period from January through August 2012, on average, 60% of U.S. consumers were
somewhat or slightly concerned about the safety of the U.S. food supply, 25% were
extremely or very concerned, and 15% not concerned at all. The food safety
concern levels in 2012 are on par with previous years.
On a bi-weekly basis, when the Food
survey is conducted, there are fluctuations in
the percentages of consumers who are not or are concerned about the safety of
the U.S. food supply based on whether or not there is a food safety issue in
the news, but the annual averages remain relatively constant.
There are also spikes and then a leveling
off with specific food safety outbreaks, according to NPD. For example, this
past summer, in July and August, there were outbreaks and product recalls
involving listeria contamination. Awareness of and concern about listeria
peaked during the time the outbreaks were widely reported and then leveled off
when the news subsided.
“The impact of a food recall on
consumer attitudes and perceptions often depends on the amount of news coverage
received, or the severity of the situation in terms of numbers sickened or dead
as a result,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst.
“Recalls, unfortunately, have become more commonplace, but consumers are
creatures of habit. It takes a lot for us to change what we eat.”