Food Safety Update (Part 2)

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Organic consumers aren’t the only Americans who are concerned about the safety of our nation’s food supply.


Almost two-thirds of U.S. adults (63%) are extremely or very concerned with the cleanliness of the restaurants in which they eat, which translates to approximately 140 million adults. Many are also worried about the safety of food purchased in grocery stores (52%), the quality of community drinking water (51%), the healthfulness of ingredients in the foods they eat (44%) and the origin of the fresh produce they consume (41%). In all of these cases, women are more likely to be concerned than men, and adults 35 and older are more likely to be concerned than those 18–34.

These are some of the results of an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive between Oct. 10 and 12, shortly after a multi-state E. coli outbreak linked to bagged spinach.

Almost all adults surveyed (96%) said they were at least somewhat familiar with the outbreak; 35% were extremely or very familiar with it. Among those who were at least somewhat familiar, the grocery item most associated with the outbreak was prepackaged fresh spinach sold in a bag or plastic box (83%). Other items mentioned included fresh spinach sold loose (40%), prepackaged fresh lettuce (30%) and fresh lettuce sold by the head (19%).

“Food safety has been a growing concern for the past 10 years, and it continues to be an important issue to consumers,” says Parker Hurlburt, vice president of Harris Interactive’s Consumer Packaged Goods Research Practice. “Although the E. coli outbreak was due only to affected spinach, many consumers took a ‘better safe than sorry’ attitude and stopped eating lettuce, as well. We also have seen this concern translate itself into increased interest in organic and locally grown foods.”

About 40% of those who associated a particular item with the outbreak said they stopped eating it (prepackaged spinach, 42%; prepackaged lettuce, 41%; lettuce sold by the head, 41%; and loose spinach, 39%).

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