Consumer Response to Food Contamination and Recalls: Findings from a National Survey
Food tampering is a great concern to many in the food safety industry. Deliberate contamination of food in the United States has occurred and could happen again. Upon discovery, the company may voluntary recall the unsafe product or it may be recalled by the government. Food recalls are announced on television and radio, in newspapers, and on the internet at www.foodsafety.gov among others. Indeed thousands of recalls occur each year, often resulting in millions of dollars in cost to the food industry. Since 9/11, the U.S. government has worked with the food industry to anticipate and prevent threats to the food supply. Consumers, however, also have a part to keep food safe before, during, and after possible acts of foodborne bioterrorism. We conducted a national survey of 1,011 adults, which asked respondents how likely they would be to follow specific government recommendations regarding foodborne illness, recalls, and intentional acts of contamination. Forty-two percent of respondents reported they thought it was very likely or likely that there would be a possible terrorist attack on the U.S. food supply in the next 10 years, and 62% reported they would not be very prepared or not at all prepared for one. In the event of a possible terrorist attack, 28% of respondents stated they would stock more food and water in their homes. Additionally, in our study, most (86%) of the respondents reported they would be very likely or likely to contact their local health department or law enforcement agency if they suspected a food product had been intentionally tampered with, and 96% reported they would be very likely or likely to return a recalled food product to the place of purchase or discard it. It is important for consumers to do their part to be prepared in the event of an intentional attack on the U.S. food supply, and to be aware of possible deliberate contamination and food recalls should they occur.
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