Nearly Three-Quarters of Americans Looking to Government for More Food Safety Oversight

Food recall announcements have become something of a news cycle staple in the past few years. From spinach and peanut butter to chicken and pet foods, there seems to be little left in the U.S. food supply that should not be viewed with at least a modicum of suspicion. As such, it's likely not surprising that strong majorities of U.S. adults say food recalls have them at least somewhat concerned (86 percent, with 58 percent somewhat concerned and 28 percent seriously concerned) and believe there should be more government oversight in regards to food safety (73 percent).

Food recall concerns – and calls for increased government oversight where the food supply is concerned – are stronger among some subsets of Americans than others:

-Women are more likely than men to indicate being both seriously (31 percent women, 25 percent men) and somewhat (61 percent and 55 percent, respectively) concerned; they are also more likely than their male counterparts to believe there should be more government oversight in regards to food safety (77 percent and 69 percent, respectively).
-Americans in low income households – specifically households with an annual income under $35,000 – are more likely than those in higher earning households to describe food recalls as a serious concern (36 percent in households earning <$35k, 21 percent in households earning $35k-$49,999, 26 percent in $50k+ households).

Waxing or waning?

U.S. adults are somewhat divided on the question of whether there have been more health and/or safety prompted food recalls recently than in the past few years (43 percent) or if their frequency has remained about the same (50 percent). Few, however, believe things have improved, with only 7 percent indicating there have been fewer than in the past few years.

-Older Americans – specifically Baby Boomers (48 percent, ages 49-67) and Matures (49 percent, ages 68+) – are more likely than their younger counterparts (38 percent Echo Boomers [ages 18-36], 37 percent Gen Xers [ages 37-48]) to believe there have been more such recalls.

-The perception that the number of recalls has risen is also stronger among women (48 percent) than men (37 percent).

When those who think there have been more food recalls lately are asked who they hold most responsible for this increase, the highest percentage by a dramatic margin place the blame on those responsible for packaging and/or processing food (50 percent), though the federal government (19 percent) and those responsible for growing and/or raising food (16 percent) don't escape this blame.

-Though overall few Americans place the lion's share of blame on consumers, for wanting food to be as cheap as possible (6 percent), it's worth noting that men (9 percent) are twice as likely as women (4 percent) to take such a position.

-Those in households with children are twice as likely as those without to point to those responsible for growing and/or raising food (24 percent with, 12 percent without).

-Matures (65 percent) are the generation most likely to blame those responsible for packaging and/or processing food, with Echo Boomers (35 percent) least likely to do so; blame among Gen Xers (57 percent) and Baby Boomers (52 percent) falls in the middle.

-Matures are less likely than any other generation to lay the blame on those responsible for growing and/or raising food (21 percent Echo Boomers, 15 percent Gen Xers, 16 percent Baby Boomers, 5 percent Matures).

Regardless of whether food recalls are on the rise or not, they have inarguably become a regular occurrence in the U.S., and six in ten Americans (61 percent) say that because of food safety concerns, they try to buy as much food locally as they can.

Americans are split on whether food safety issues are an inevitable side effect of low food costs, with roughly half each agreeing (52 percent) and disagreeing (48 percent) with the sentiment.

Source: Harris Interactive 

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

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