Study: Consumers worry about food price, safety

Consumers are becoming more concerned about the price, safety and environmental impact of the food they buy, according to a nationwide survey. Rich Pirog is spokesman for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture which conducted the poll that included some 750 consumers.Pirog says when it comes to rising food and fuel prices, consumers said they were taking fewer vacations, buying more food on sale, using more coupons, eating out less. He says they found it interesting that when it came to cutting back on the foods people eat, they were eating less desserts.
Following several recent recalls involving meat and other foods packaged or processed in Nebraska, Pirog says concerns over the safety of food have increased. He says there were particular concerns over the global food supply with only 15-percent viewing the global supply safe, while well over 70-percent see the local and regional food system as safe. Pirog says the feeling about the national food system was much higher than the global system, but it had dropped. A survey last year showed 70-percent thought the U-S food system was safe, while the most recent survey dropped to 55-percent.
Pirog says there are a variety of reasons why the confidence in the food system has dropped. He says they didn’t ask this directly, but believe some of the recent issues in the media with e-coli concerns in spinach and other products, along with concerns about problems in the Chinese food system led to the decrease in confidence.
The survey found more people are looking at buying and canning their own fruits and vegetables to make up for some of the price and safety concerns. He says when they combine the numbers for people who said they are very likely or somewhat likely to grow their own or buy locally, it was about one third. Pirog says more than 50-percent of respondents saw value in retailers putting carbon labels on their food products, with the vast majority are only willing to encourage the labels if their costs did not increase.
The Leopold Center is based at Iowa State University, in Ames.