Consumer Concerns

Better documentation of the consequences of microbiological-based foodborne illness and increased media coverage have probably led to increased consumer concern about microbiological hazards. Nationwide surveys indicate that more people volunteer concerns about microbiological hazards than any other potential food safety issue. Survey responses regarding volunteered concern about microbiological safety increased from 36% in 1992 to 69% in 1997 (6). When the question of concern about food contamination by bacteria or germs was specifically asked, 82% of respondents classified it as a serious hazard. This response indicates more concern about this type of food hazard than any other food safety risk.

Although pesticide residues continue to generate concern among a large segment of the population, only 65% ranked it a serious hazard in 1997, a significant decreased from 82% in 1989 (6). Concern about other food safety areas has also decreased. Those expressing serious concern with antibiotics and hormones used in poultry or livestock decreased from 61% in 1989 to 43% in 1997. Those rating the use of nitrites in food as a serious hazard decreased from 44% in 1989 to 28% in 1997. Those rating use of additives and preservatives as a serious hazard decreased from 30% in 1989 to 21% in 1997.

The USDA hot line calls indicate the food safety areas related to animal products where people sought informa-

tion. In 1996 most calls, 74%, were inquiries about safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat and poultry products (5). Twelve percent of inquiries dealt with marketing and inspection issues, 6% addressed questionable products and practices, and 4% related to labeling, product dating, and basic nutrition. More than 6000 inquiries related to handling of turkey, followed by beef and veal with almost 5000 calls.

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