We hear from our Strategic Advisor Sterling Crew on the insights from the Food Standards Agency’s latest ‘Public Attitudes Survey.’
The Public Attitudes Survey
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the results of its latest biannual Public Attitudes Tracker Survey. Running since 2010 the FSA review surveys consumers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, monitoring changes in consumer attitudes regarding food related issues, along with levels of trust and awareness of the FSA.
Positive findings from the review indicate a general decline in concern regarding food safety in UK food outlets (down 3% from the previous survey). Reported concern has continued to decrease slightly since the first survey in 2010, indicating a declining trend in concern over the safety of food in UK food outlets, while 76% of respondents were confident that our food is accurately labelled.
Asked about hygiene standards when eating out, 37% of people reported concerns about food safety in shops and supermarkets. At 41% the primary food safety concern however, was that of restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways. The review indicates a lack of awareness amongst the public, that the majority of food poisoning cases originate in the home and not when eating out. This theory is further reinforced with just 17% of those surveyed reporting concerns about food hygiene in their own household.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) supports consumers in making informed choices about where to eat out or shop for food. The survey highlights that the FHRS is being used more than ever before in assessing food hygiene standards, with the latest results showing that the public’s use of hygiene stickers has increased to 66% compared to 60% in the previous review just 6 months ago. The scheme is resonating more and more with the public, with respondents reporting that a good hygiene rating score is important in their decision where to eat out. While this is positive news, I believe this score would have been even higher if it was mandatory to display the FHRS sticker in England, as it currently is in Northern Ireland and Wales. 85% of respondents reported being aware of the hygiene standards in places where they eat out or buy food from. The most commonly reported methods for determining a premise’s hygiene standards were food hygiene ratings stickers (66%) and the general appearance of the premises (59%).
Allergens have become a major area of food safety concern. The Government is currently strengthening the allergen labelling rules, making full ingredient labelling and the highlighting of food allergens mandatory for pre-packed foods. 11% of respondents in the survey reported having a food allergy and/or intolerance. However, despite all the recent publicity when asked about awareness of the rule around allergens, only 7% reported that allergens must be displayed on menus and labels. Encouraging findings reveal an increase in respondents who report feeling confident asking for vital allergen information in a variety of food outlets, with the majority of respondents (81%) feeling secure in asking for such information in a restaurant.
Food poisoning awarness was strong. Salmonella and E.coli were by far the most commonly known types of food poisoning (90% and 84% respectively), followed by Norovirus (59%) and Listeria (53%). 79% of respondents thought that they were most likely to get food poisoning from raw chicken and turkey, followed by shellfish (56%) and reheated takeaway (49%). The majority of respondents (76%) indicated that cooking food thoroughly would help them avoid food poisoning.
The top food safety issues of concern for those surveyed were:
- Food hygiene when eating out (31%)
- Chemicals from the environment, such as lead in food (30%)
- The use of pesticides to grow food (29%)
- Food poisoning (28%)
The top wider food issues of concern were:
- Food waste (51%)
- The amount of sugar in food (49%)
- Food prices (43%)
- Animal welfare (43%)
- The amount of salt in food (39%)
Time to take action
At Shield Safety Group we help businesses of all sizes manage their compliance. From diaries to independent food safety audits, software and staff training, we help you improve standards and support your due diligence defence – Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.