Poll shows few Americans give high marks to food safety efforts

October 25, 2008

A new Ipsos/McClatchy poll of Americans indicates mixed feelings regarding food safety efforts in the United States, problem areas, and the amount of responsibility various parties should have with respect to food safety.

Overall, few Americans give food safety in the United States a good grade. Asked to rate food safety according to ‘school grades’ (A, B, C, D, or F), only one in ten (11%) give food safety a grade of ‘A.’ Additionally, only 54% rate food safety as an ‘A’ or ‘B.’ Nearly half of Americans (46%) give food safety a fair, poor or failing grade (34% ‘C’, 9% ‘D’, 3% ‘F’).

Asked to rate food safety now compared to six months ago, a majority (57%) think the situation is about the same as six months ago. However, the proportion of Americans who believe food safety has gotten worse (28%) is nearly twice as large as the group who feel that food safety has gotten better (15%).

In general, Americans place the lion’s share of responsibility for food safety on food processing companies (81% great deal of responsibility) and U.S. government food safety inspectors (79% great deal of responsibility). Food packaging companies are also viewed as having a great deal of responsibility (73%), followed by food producers such as farmers and ranchers (63% a great deal of responsibility). In general, Americans deflect responsibility away from consumers (30% a great deal of responsibility).

While Americans do not rate food safety in the U.S. as particularly strong, most believe that the problems lie generally outside the U.S. Eight in ten Americans (79%) report that most food safety concerns are related to imported food; two in ten (21%) think most concerns are related to domestically produced food.

No consensus exists around a particular food as the single-most concerning regarding food safety. One quarter of Americans (24%) are most concerned about the safety of fish and seafood, roughly the same percentage as are most concerned with beef (23%). The other significant food items of concern include vegetables (20%) and chicken (18%). Few Americans are concerned about the safety of fruits (5%), pork (5%), milk (4%) or cheese (1%).



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