Perspectives on Food Safety
While “Perspectives on Food Safety” is a suitable title for my editorial, the phrase actually refers to the perspectives of
consumers that buy the products that the food industry produces
At the recent Global Food Safety Conference in Washington, DC, I heard a notable
presentation by Jean-Jacques Vandenheede,
Belgium-based Director of Retailing Insights–
Europe for The Nielsen Company. He presented the results of a recent online food safety
poll that Nielsen conducted, which reached
over 30,000 individuals worldwide.
Some of the findings were certainly predictable: almost 90% of
participants felt that food safety affects their decision about where
to shop and 70% of those polled expressed the belief that it is the
food manufacturer’s responsibility to provide safe food. A majority
of those polled said they will pay a premium for safe food, but at
the same time, a sizable number (>35%) reported they will eat food
past the pull date if it smells/looks all right. Those who buy organic
food said they feel that organic food is safer, and half (50%) of sur-
vey participants said they buy locally produced foods whenever pos-
sible, essentially equating “local” with “safe.”
The Nielsen survey also evinced a familiar mistrust of the safety
of genetically modified foods (based primarily on a fear of technol-
ogy and much misinformation) among many respondents. How-
ever, the most surprising (and enlightening) result was that 34% of
individuals trust the media most when a food safety scare arises [the
top choice over government (33%), food manufacturer (23%) and
retailer (10%)]. As a member of the media, I assume that the reason
for that perception is that most people feel the media to be unbi-
ased: we do not produce or sell food, and therefore, we must not
have ulterior motives when it comes to talking/writing about food.
Given that members of the food industry are also consumers of
food products, it is essential to assess all perceptions of food safety—
our own and those of the people to whom food products are marketed—so that we can better educate the public about the
importance of the industry’s commitment to food safety.
Barbara VanRenterghem, Ph.D.
CEO, The Target Group Inc. Don Meeker
Publisher Stacy Atchison
Coughing up a lung Bobby Meeker
Editorial Director Barbara VanRenterghem, Ph.D.
Art Director/Production Craig Van Wechel
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