Two in five Europeans take a personal interest in food safety and only one in five say it is their main concern when choosing food. For most Europeans, it is one of several factors – together with price, taste, nutrition and food origin – that influence their eating habits and food choices.
The most important factors for Europeans when buying food are where the food comes from (53%), cost (51%), food safety (50%) and taste (49%). Nutritional content is slightly less important (44%), while ethics and beliefs rank lowest (19%). Overall, 41% of respondents say that they are ‘personally interested in the topic of food safety’. Just over one fifth of Europeans (22%) say that safety is their main concern when choosing food.
Two-thirds of Europeans (66%) have changed their consumption after receiving information about a food risk. For 33% the change was permanent; for the other 33% only for a while.
Changes in consumption behavior are more common among women, those in the middle age bands, and those with higher levels of education.
The most frequently cited concerns are ‘antibiotic, hormone or steroid residues in meat’ (44%), ‘pesticide residues in food’ (39%), ‘environmental pollutants in fish, meat or dairy’ (37%) and ‘additives like colors, preservatives or flavorings used in food or drinks’ (36%).
Trust is highest in scientists (82%) and consumer organizations (79%) for information on food-related risks, followed by farmers (69%), national authorities (60%), EU institutions (58%), NGOs (56%) and journalists (50%). Fewer people trust supermarkets and restaurants (43%), food industries (36%) and celebrities, bloggers and influencers (19%).
Just over two in five respondents (43%) say that ‘there are regulations in place to make sure that the food you eat is safe’. Three in ten (28%) know that ‘to decide how risky something could be for you to eat; the EU relies on scientists to give expert advice’.
The study published on World Food Safety Day gives “consumers, producers and governments a chance to focus on an issue that is often taken for granted” according to the United Nations. The survey results suggest that most Europeans (55%) have a high level of awareness of food safety topics and two-thirds have changed their behavior as a result of receiving information about food safety issues.
“I am delighted that finally there is a day that marks the importance of food safety and recognizes the valuable work of women and men, farmers, veterinarians, agronomists, chefs, and so many more, who work hard every day to make sure that the food that goes on our plates is safe. The results of this study show that Europeans have a high level of awareness of food safety topics and care what they eat. This gives us even greater motivation to continue our work in ensuring that our high standards are maintained and also strive to achieve more sustainable production and consumption patterns,” said commissioner for health and food safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis.