FSA survey finds most consumer views stable

Many consumer behaviors have remained the same, but concern about food prices has risen, according to an analysis of a multi-year survey.

The report has findings from respondents in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland from six surveys between 2020 and 2023.  

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) uses the survey done twice a year to monitor consumers’ self-reported knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding food safety and other related issues. 

Food hygiene results
The percentage of respondents who had heard of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) and knew about it has increased. The lowest level was in England, where the system is voluntary. About 4 in 10 respondents considered a score of 3, generally satisfactory, as the lowest acceptable level.

Across all surveys, about 90 percent thought businesses should legally be required to display a food hygiene rating at their premises. A similar amount thought this for firms providing online food ordering services.

People were more likely to report concern about food hygiene when eating out or when ordering takeaways compared to cooking at home. The percentage of people who were worried about food poisoning fluctuated. They were more likely to report concern in winter than in summer.

The number of people who reported the temperature of the inside of a fridge should be between 0-5 degrees C (32 to 41 degrees F) stayed at about 60 percent.

About three-quarters of respondents always washed their hands before preparing or cooking food, while most did this after handling raw meat, poultry, or fish.

Across all surveys, about 8 in 10 said they would only reheat food once. There was an increase in the percentage who would eat leftovers after two days or longer, from 23 percent to 31 percent.

There was a slight decrease in the percentage who reported that they never washed raw chicken, from 62 to 56 percent. More than 6 in 10 said they always check use-by dates before cooking or preparing food.

Public confidence
Based on a list of options, the most common concerns were initially food waste and the amount of sugar in food. However, now it is food prices.

“This report shows that the majority of people are worried about food prices — with almost twice the number of people being highly concerned about food affordability compared to three years ago. In addition to the rise in household food insecurity, this shows the continuing struggle that many people are facing with the cost of living,” said Emily Miles, chief executive of the FSA.

Across all surveys, about 9 in 10 respondents said they were confident that the food they buy is safe to eat, and 8 in 10 were confident that information on food labels is accurate.

People were consistently more confident regarding food safety in shops and supermarkets than in food delivery services. About 9 in 10 had confidence in farmers, and 8 in 10 had confidence in food manufacturers, slaughterhouses, and dairies.

Eight in 10 were confident that the FSA could be relied upon to protect the public from food-related risks such as food poisoning or allergic reactions that it takes appropriate action if a food-related risk is identified, and that it communicates about food-related risks.

The percentage of respondents who are concerned about hormones, steroids, or antibiotics has decreased, as has concern about the use of pesticides and additives, genetically modified foods, and chemical contamination from the environment. 

People were more concerned about the safety and authenticity of food produced outside the UK than food made in the UK.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

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