How to fill in the gaps in consumers’ food safety knowledge

Dive Brief:

  • The Food and Drug Administration, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety and Inspection Service, found consumer knowledge about food safety practices has increased in the 2016 Food Safety Survey Report.
  • The survey consisted of interviews with 4,169 participants between October 2015 and January 2016 and revealed that while consumers are a bit concerned about getting sick from food prepared at home, many feel people are more likely to get a foodborne illness from food prepared at a restaurant.

  • One of consumers’ largest concerns was the possibility of raw food being contaminated, with 66% of survey respondents thinking raw chicken was very likely to have germs and 41% of respondents thinking raw beef was. Meanwhile, only 6% thought the same of raw vegetables.

Dive Insight:

The FDA report is designed to provide a deeper understanding of consumer knowledge, attitudes and practices related to food safety, and manufacturers would be wise to understand consumers’ misconceptions.

Based on the survey, people seem aware of dangers like salmonella and E. coli. Campylobacter, a bacteria that is among the most common causes of food poisoning in the U.S., was only recognized by 16%.

Campylobacter can occur from consuming raw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, or contaminated water. Manufacturers can increase awareness of it by adding warning labels to packaging or making a concerted effort to make sure it’s more in the public’s eye. This could take place through a venue like social media discussions or direct ad campaigns.

People are also on their smartphones while cooking, and 48% of people admitted to using cell phones or tablets while preparing food. Only 35% of those wash their hands with soap after touching the device during food preparation. Numerous studies have shown that the germs on smartphones rivals that of a subway car or motel bed. It’s imperative that people wash their hands (and their screens!) while cooking, something manufacturers may be able to tell the public through videos that play when recipes are accessed or more prominent discussions on social media.

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