Nearly Three-Quarters of Americans Looking to Government for More Food Safety Oversight

Vast majority at least somewhat concerned about food health and/or safety recalls

12:00 AM EST Feb 5, 2014 Rating
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New York , N.Y. - February 5, 2014 - Food recall announcements have become something of a news cycle staple in the past few years. From spinach and peanut butter to chicken and pet foods, there seems to be little left in the U.S. food supply that should not be viewed with at least a modicum of suspicion. As such, it's likely not surprising that strong majorities of U.S. adults say food recalls have them at least somewhat concerned (86%, with 58% somewhat concerned and 28% seriously concerned) and believe there should be more government oversight in regards to food safety (73%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,236 adults surveyed online between January 15 and 20, 2014.

Food recall concerns - and calls for increased government oversight where the food supply is concerned - are stronger among some subsets of Americans than others:

Waxing or waning?

U.S. adults are somewhat divided on the question of whether there have been more health and/or safety prompted food recalls recently than in the past few years (43%) or if their frequency has remained about the same (50%). Few, however, believe things have improved, with only 7% indicating there have been fewer than in the past few years.

When those who think there have been more food recalls lately are asked who they hold most responsible for this increase, the highest percentage by a dramatic margin place the blame on those responsible for packaging and/or processing food (50%), though the federal government (19%) and those responsible for growing and/or raising food (16%) don't escape this blame.

Regardless of whether food recalls are on the rise or not, they have inarguably become a regular occurrence in the U.S., and six in ten Americans (61%) say that because of food safety concerns, they try to buy as much food locally as they can.

Americans are split on whether food safety issues are an inevitable side effect of low food costs, with roughly half each agreeing (52%) and disagreeing (48%) with the sentiment.

Forgiveness is divine

Health or safety related food recalls can have enormous implications for a company's reputation and patronage - but not a permanent one, at least for a majority of Americans. Over half of U.S. adults (55%) indicate that if a brand they usually purchase is involved with a recall or safety concern issue, they'll temporarily switch to another brand and then return to the recalled brand once it's safe.

On the other hand, 16% say they'll purchase another brand and never purchase the recalled brand again, and an additional 17% would thereafter avoid any brands made by the recalled product's manufacturer.

To view the full findings, or to see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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TABLE 1

CONCERN OVER FOOD RECALLS

Which of the following statements best describes your level of concern about food recalls due to health or safety concerns?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Food recalls are a serious concern to me

Food recalls have me somewhat concerned

Food recalls do not concern me at all

All U.S. Adults

 

 

 

 

2007

%

29

57

14

2014

%

28

58

14

 

Gender

Men

%

25

55

20

Women

%

31

61

8

Generation

Echo Boomers (18-36)

%

28

55

17

Gen Xers (37-48)

%

23

64

14

Baby Boomers (49-67)

%

30

56

13

Matures (68+)

%

30

62

9

Household Income

$34,999 or less

%

36

50

14

$35,000 - $49,999

%

21

66

13

$50,000+

%

26

59

15

Political Party

Republicans

%

25

59

16

Democrats

%

32

55

13

Independents

%

25

62

13

 

 

 

Children in Household

Yes

%

28

59

13

No

%

28

58

15

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 2

COURSE OF ACTION IN EVENT OF FOOD RECALL

If you learned that a food was recalled due to health or safety concerns, which of the following best describes the course of action you would take when you learned that this product had been recalled?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

If it was a brand I usually purchase, I would temporarily purchase another brand and then purchase the recalled brand once it was safe

If it was a brand I usually purchase, I would purchase another brand and never purchase the recalled brand again

I would avoid using any brand made by the manufacturer of the recalled product

Not sure

All U.S. Adults

 

 

 

 

 

2007

%

55

15

21

9

2014

%

55

16

17

12

 

Gender

Men

%

58

14

16

12

Women

%

53

18

18

11

Generation

Echo Boomers (18-36)

%

49

24

15

12

Gen Xers (37-48)

%

53

15

18

14

Baby Boomers (49-67)

%

60

12

17

10

Matures (68+)

%

60

9

20

10

Household Income

$34,999 or less

%

53

18

16

13

$35,000 - $49,999

%

50

11

27

13

$50,000+

%

57

17

15

11

Political Party

Republicans

%

63

13

16

8

Democrats

%

54

16

19

11

Independents

%

55

17

15

13

 

 

 

Children in Household

Yes

%

54

19

15

11

No

%

56

15

18

12

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 3

MORE/FEWER FOOD RECALLS RECENTLY THAN IN PAST FEW YEARS

Thinking about food health or safety issues prompting recalls in recent years, do you feel there have beenâ€_?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

More than in the past few years

About the same as in the past few years

Fewer than in the past few years

Total

%

43

50

7

 

Gender

Men

%

37

54

8

Women

%

48

46

7

Generation

Echo Boomers (18-36)

%

38

52

10

Gen Xers (37-48)

%

37

56

7

Baby Boomers (49-67)

%

48

47

4

Matures (68+)

%

49

42

9

Household Income

$34,999 or less

%

42

44

14

$35,000 - $49,999

%

42

52

7

$50,000+

%

43

52

5

Political Party

Republicans

%

43

50

7

Democrats

%

46

46

8

Independents

%

42

51

7

 

 

 

Children in Household

Yes

%

40

50

10

No

%

44

50

6

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 4

WHO MOST HOLD RESPONSIBLE FOR INCREASED FOOD HEALTH & SAFETY ISSUES

By Gender, Children in Household & Generation

And who do you most hold responsible for there having been more food health and safety issues in recent years?

Base: Think there have been more food recalls

2014 Total

Gender

Children in Household

Generation

Male

Female

Yes

No

Echo Boomers (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Those responsible for packaging/processing food

50

45

53

42

53

35

57

52

65

The federal government

19

23

17

17

20

20

15

20

23

Those responsible for growing/raising food

16

16

16

24

12

21

15

16

5

Consumers, for wanting food to be as cheap as possible

6

9

4

9

5

11

8

3

5

Major restaurant chains

2

2

1

1

2

4

-

1

-

Grocery store chains

1

1

1

3

 

3

-

 

-

Other

4

3

5

2

5

3

4

5

1

None of these

2

2

3

2

3

3

2

3

1

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

- indicates this response was not selected

indicates fewer than 0.5% selected this response

 

TABLE 5a

AGREE/DISAGREE WITH RECALL STATEMENTS (SUMMARY GRID)

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Base: U.S. adults

AGREE (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

There should be more government oversight in regards to food safety.

%

73

29

44

27

18

9

Because of food safety concerns, I try to buy as much food locally as possible.

%

61

16

44

39

29

11

Food safety issues are an inevitable side effect of low food costs.

%

52

11

41

48

30

17

I worry more about food safety in regards to produce (fruits and vegetables) than meat and dairy products.

%

40

9

31

60

45

15

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding


TABLE 5b

AGREE/DISAGREE WITH RECALL STATEMENTS

Strongly Agree + Somewhat Agree (NET) Summary By Gender, Generation & Political Party

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Base: U.S. Adults

2014 Total

Gender

Generation

Political Party

Male

Female

Echo Boomers (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Republicans

Democrats

Independents

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

There should be more government oversight in regards to food safety.

73

69

77

75

69

74

70

60

86

70

Because of food safety concerns, I try to buy as much food locally as possible.

61

52

68

54

57

64

73

60

64

56

Food safety issues are an inevitable side effect of low food costs.

52

52

53

59

56

47

45

48

52

54

I worry more about food safety in regards to produce (fruits and vegetables) than meat and dairy products.

40

39

42

41

43

37

40

39

38

41

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 15 and 20, 2013 among 2,236 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #14, February 5, 2014

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.

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