EU Europeans on today's food issues
These are just some of the many findings from a new EFSA Eurobarometer survey published on the first International Food Safety Day.
International Food Safety Day “offers consumers, manufacturers and governments the opportunity to address an issue that is often taken for granted,” says the United Nations. The survey results show that the majority of Europeans (55%) have a strong awareness of food safety issues and two thirds have changed their behaviour as a result of information on food safety issues.
This year's survey was developed together with the EU Member States to take new perspectives into account and to ensure closer contact with citizens. Nevertheless, it allows some useful comparisons with previous surveys.
When food safety is mentioned as a factor, there is not one concern that prevails in all EU countries. However, in 20 or more EU Member States, three issues are most frequently mentioned: the misuse of antibiotics, hormones and steroids in farm animals (44%), pesticide residues in food (39%) and food additives (36%).
These were among the main concerns identified by the then Eurobarometer on Food Safety in 2010. However, Europeans seem to be less concerned than before about issues such as GMOs, while new issues such as microplastics are appearing for the first time on the food safety radar.
Selected results of the Eurobarometer survey (for the EU average):
- The most important factors for Europeans when buying food are origin (53%), cost (51%), food safety (50%) and taste (49%). Nutritional value is slightly less important (44%), while ethical and ideological aspects are the least important (19%). A total of 41% of respondents said they had a “personal interest in food safety”. Just over a fifth of Europeans (22%) say that safety is their main concern when choosing food.
- Two thirds of Europeans (66%) have changed their eating habits as a result of information about a food risk. For 33% the change was permanent; for the other 33% it was temporary.
- Changes in consumption patterns are more common among women, middle-aged people and people with a higher level of education.
- The most frequently cited concerns are "residues of antibiotics, hormones or steroids in meat" (44%), "residues of pesticides in food" (39%), "environmental pollutants in fish, meat or dairy products" (37%) and "additives such as colours, preservatives or flavourings in food or beverages" (36%).
- In terms of information on nutritional risks, scientists (82%) and consumer organisations (79%) have the highest confidence, followed by farmers (69%), national authorities (60%), EU institutions (58%), NGOs (56%) and journalists (50%). Fewer people trust supermarkets and restaurants (43%), the food industry (36%) and celebrities, bloggers and influencers (19%).
- Slightly more than 2 out of 5 respondents (43%) state that "rules exist to ensure that the food they eat is safe". Three out of ten respondents (28%) know that "the EU relies on the advice of scientific experts to identify risks associated with the consumption of food".