The food standards agency conduct a biannual survey, interviewing over 2000 adults across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to gather consumer feedback on food-related issues including hygiene concerns and food safety awareness.
The top food safety issues of concern for those surveyed were:
Food hygiene when eating out (35%)
Food poisoning (29%)
Chemicals from the environment, such as lead, in food (28%)
Food additives (28%)
The top wider food issues of concern were:
The amount of sugar in food (50%)
Food waste (49%)
Food prices (46%)
Animal welfare (43%)
Food Safety Concerns
The survey reveals that overall the general public feel more confident about food safety than in previous survey years but 43% of respondents still reported that they felt concerned about food safety in UK restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways with 40% of respondents reporting concern about food safety in UK shops and supermarkets.
Awareness of Food Hygiene Standards
The majority of those surveyed were aware of food hygiene standards, mostly being reassured by hygiene stickers / certificates and by the general appearance of the premises.
Awareness of Food Poisoning
Most of the general public surveyed were aware of salmonella and E.coli types of food poisoning. The overall consensus of opinion on the most likely sources of food poisoning were raw chicken or turkey, followed by shellfish, reheated take-away food and eggs.
Awareness of Allergens
Only 16% of respondents were aware of the specific regulations concerning allergens, meanwhile 9% reported that they have a food intolerance and/or allergy themselves.
Fortunately most people (70%-78%) reported that they felt confident about asking staff at food outlets for more information about ingredients in food because of a concern about possible allergens/food intolerance.
Attitudes towards Food Production, Sale and Labelling
The survey revealed that the majority of the general public trust that food is what it says it is and that it is accurately labelled. However only 43% of respondents trusted that people who produce and sell food have their best interests at heart.
It is interesting to see that more than a third of those surveyed are concerned about food hygiene when they eat out and that the majority of those surveyed are reassured by hygiene stickers/certificates and by the general appearance of the premises. The FSA are currently working on mandatory display legislation for the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme in England. This will require all business by 2020 to display their ‘scores on the doors’. Allowing consumers to make a more informed choice about the places where they eat or shop for food. It is also interesting to see that nearly one in ten of those surveyed had a food intolerance and/or allergy themselves. This shows how essential it is for food businesses to understand their duties under the Allergen Regulations.