Levine writes: Investigating shoppers’ perceptions of risk

Katrina Levine, extension associate and lead author of Consumer perceptions of the safety of ready-to-eat foods in retail food store settings writes,

While I was grocery shopping one day at my regular store, I noticed that one of the doors to the dairy refrigerator case was missing. There was no sign or notice to explain the gaping hole where the door should have been in front of the shredded cheese, nor was any attempt made to compensate for the absent door, such as by relocating the items in that section or putting up a temporary covering.

After first being a bit confused when trying to reach for a non-existent handle, these questions popped into my head:

• how can the food in this section be at a safe temperature, as well as the foods on either side of it? and,

• doesn’t this missing door affect the ability of the case to maintain its temperature?

I’m a food safety nerd. Most people just want to shop and get on with whatever they are doing, but I’m subconsciously always looking for food safety behaviors. The person standing behind me was probably more interested in which brand was the least expensive or which package looked the freshest, or just wanted me to get out the way so they could buy their cheese and leave.

Does the lack of a door on a normally enclosed refrigerator case pose a food safety risk for dairy the products in that case? Depends on whom you ask. The average consumer (interpret this as you choose) often doesn’t see the same food safety risks when shopping in grocery stores compared to food safety folks.

Our group from North Carolina State teamed up with John Luchansky and Anna Porto-Fett at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service to investigate this difference between consumers and food safety folks in food safety risk perception when shopping at grocery stores.  We conducted a national survey and several focus groups where, instead of just describing a situation, we showed pictures of a food safety situation someone could actually encounter while shopping. In addition to asking questions about whether each photo was safe or unsafe, we wanted to know about the actions, if any, people would take to do something about a situation they thought was unsafe. We prodded them further with questions about how their perceptions of safety would affect their shopping behaviors.

We found that consumers and food safety folks don’t always see the same food safety risks. There were some situations consumers perceived as risky but that weren’t actually risks, like seeing an insect on the floor. There were also some risks that food safety folks saw but consumers missed, like food not properly stored within the refrigerated area.

I was explaining our study to a friend the other day, and she flat out told me, “I look for food quality when I’m shopping – is it fresh, is there mold or signs of damage, does it look ok?” This is exactly what we found. Consumers are looking for those quality aspects, but aren’t always seeing the warning signs that the safety of the food could be at risk. The viruses, bacteria, and other things that cause foodborne illness such as Listeria monocytogenes, might be present on foods in the grocery store at high levels by not storing soft cheeses at the proper temperature, allowing bacteria to grow more quickly.

Our research team will be taking this one step further to better understand the mind of the shopper and see things through their eyes. Everyday consumers will become our secret shoppers, and we plan to arm them with the information they need to be food safety detectives every time they shop. #citizenscience for the win.

Consumer perceptions of the safety of ready-to-eat foods in retail food store settings

Katrina Levine, Mary Yavelak, John B. Luchansky, Anna C. S. Porto-Fett, and Benjamin Chapman

Journal of Food Protection

August 2017, Vol. 80, No. 8, pp. 1364-1377

DOI: doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-16-417

Abstract:

To better understand how consumers perceive food safety risks in retail food store settings, a survey was administered to 1,041 nationally representative participants who evaluated possible food safety risks depicted in selected photographs and self-reported their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. Participants were shown 12 photographs taken at retail stores portraying either commonly perceived or actual food safety contributing factors, such as cross-contamination, product and equipment temperatures, worker hygiene, and/or store sanitation practices. Participants were then asked to specifically identify what they saw, comment as to whether what they saw was safe or unsafe, and articulate what actions they would take in response to these situations. In addition to the survey, focus groups were employed to supplement survey findings with qualitative data. Survey respondents identified risk factors for six of nine actual contributing factor photographs >50% of the time: poor produce storage sanitation (86%, n = 899), cross-contamination during meat slicing (72%, n = 750), bare-hand contact of ready-to-eat food in the deli area (67%, n = 698), separation of raw and ready-to-eat food in the seafood case (63%, n = 660), cross-contamination from serving utensils in the deli case (62%, n = 644), and incorrect product storage temperature (51%, n = 528). On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 was very unsafe and 5 was very safe, a significant difference was found between average risk perception scores for photographs of actual contributing factors (score of ca. 2.5) and scores for photographs of perceived contributing factors (score of ca. 2.0). Themes from the focus groups supported the results of the survey and provided additional insight into consumer food safety risk perceptions. The results of this study inform communication interventions for consumers and retail food safety professionals aimed at improving hazard identification.

Surveys still suck: Australians identify ingredients hate list, so retailers can make a buck

Nielsen research has found almost half of Australian consumers wish there were more “all natural” food products on supermarket shelves.

trump-snake-oilA reflection of the way the question was asked.

Would you like all natural food products that contained dangerous microorganisms?

Probably not.

The findings from the Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Survey show Australians are adopting a “back-to-basics mindset”, focusing on simple ingredients says Nielsen.

Close to nine in 10 respondents said they avoid specific ingredients because they believe them to be harmful to their own or their family’s health, while six in 10 consumers said they are concerned about the long-term health impact of artificial ingredients in their diet.

“Informed and savvy consumers are demanding more from the foods they eat and are happy to pay more if they believe it is better for them,” said Michael Elam-Rye, associate director – retail at Nielsen.

They are not informed; they are responding to what grocery stores, TV, the Internet and friends tell them.

But in a Donald Trump era, it’s a fact-free world.

Trump won because he told people what they wanted to hear.

People embrace natural foods and are anti-vaccine because someone is telling them what they want to hear.

It’s seductive.

And it’s big bucks for the purveyors of food porn – farmers, processors, retailers – especially retailers – and media outlets that make a buck telling people what they want to hear.

I get it. I’ve always said – since I was about 20-years-old – getting attention in the public domain is a mixture of style and substance. Scientists can work on their style, everyone else can work on their substance (and just because you eat does not make you an expert).

But substance has to win out, about 60-40.

It’s a peculiarity that society expects bridges and other engineering feats, along with medicine, to be exceeding current and revolutionary, yet many expect to produce food as in the old days.

trump-special-kind-stupidIt’s not peculiar: it’s advertising, messaging and manipulation.

John Defore writes about a new documentary Food Evolution, which defends the place of genetically engineered food in agriculture.

Neil deGrasse Tyson – who seamlessly blends the 60-40 suggestion of substance over style – and director Scott Hamilton Kennedy challenge enviro-activist orthodoxy, much in the same way I’ve been doing for 30 years.

But they’re more skilled at the style.

Food Evolution sounds on paper like it might be one of those hack-job rebuttals in which moneyed right-wing interests disguise propaganda as a documentary. Many on the left will likely dismiss it as such, which is a shame … the movie makes an excellent case against those who seek blanket prohibitions against genetically modified organisms — and … against those of us who support such bans just because we assume it’s the eco-conscious thing to do.

[I]t investigates the motives of some prominent anti-GMO activists — like those who are “very entrepreneurial,” finding ways to make money off fears the film believes are baseless, or like researcher Chuck Benbrook, whose work was financed by companies making billions from customers afraid of GMOs.

Hope bridges don’t start falling down because people want them more natural.

The folks who did the survey say, “This presents an opportunity for food manufacturers to increase share by offering and marketing products that are formulated with good-for-you ingredients, and an opportunity for retailers to trade consumers up with more premium priced products.”

snakeoilTell lies. Bend rules. Make a buck.

Trump is the embodiment for the times.

Top 10 ingredients Australian consumers avoid:

Antibiotics/hormones in animals products

MSG

Artificial preservatives

Artificial flavours

Artificial sweeteners

Foods with BPA packaging

Artificial colours

Sugar

Genetically modified foods

Sodium

I avoid dangerous microorganisms, which sicken 1-out-of-8 people every year.

That’s a lot of barfing.

And it’s not on the list.

Surveys still suck but this involves Chipotle, so it’s fun (for me)

The Daily Meal asked the public what impact, if any, the six-foodborne-illness-outbreaks-in-six months has had on the number of times they dine at Chipotle.Dan Myers writes 450 people responded, and here are the results:

chipotle.slide.jan.16I’ve never eaten at Chipotle, and I’m not about to start now:  5.9%

I’ve cut back on dining there, but haven’t completely stopped: 6.8%

I held off during the outbreak, but will start eating there again now that it’s over: 13.8%

It didn’t affect my Chipotle addiction at all: 21.8%

I’ve stopped dining there completely: 46.5%

Nearly half of all respondents have sworn off Chipotle completely, while only a relatively small percentage is planning on returning at all! At the other end of the spectrum, however, more than 20 percent of respondents remained loyal throughout the outbreak, food poisoning risk be damned. These loyalists weren’t enough to fend off a major drop in sales, however.

Chipotle has spent millions of dollars trying to woo customers back, and will continue to spend more, and the chain is confident that this plan will work. But if nearly half of its customer base swears the chain off for good, can it ever really recover?

Surveys still suck: US consumers definition of food safety expanded, so provide them info

Health and wellness, safety, social impact, experience, and transparency are all factors 51 percent of consumers weigh when determining which food items to purchase, according to a joint study from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and consulting firm Deloitte.

survey-saysThe study, “Capitalizing on the Shifting Consumer Food Value Equation,” [PDF] found these new factors influence purchasing decisions in addition to traditional drivers like taste, price, and convenience.

There’s a shift in the way people think about food safety. “Americans no longer define the concept of food safety based on near-term risks to their health,” a joint news release said.

According to the survey, 75 percent of consumers include health, wellness, and transparency in their definition of food safety. Other factors consumers included in their definition of food safety: free from harmful ingredients (62 percent); clear and accurate labeling (51 percent); and fewer ingredients, processing, and no artificial ingredients (42 percent).

“Today’s consumers have a higher thirst for knowledge than previous generations and they are putting the assessment of that information into their value equation,” said GMA Operations and Industry Collaboration Senior Executive Vice President Jim Flannery. “Brands that win with consumers will likely be those that provide the information they seek, well beyond what is on the label.”

Surveys still suck: Public wants more information about conditions at LA County restaurants

Surveys are built-in news generators but can often mean little.

Of course people want more information, want more food labels, and always wash their hands properly when they go #2.

survey.saysThe San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports the public wants to know more about the conditions in Los Angeles County restaurants.

Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 3, 419 people responded to the five-question survey asking whether more information should be provided on health grade placards posted in restaurant and market windows, according to a Dec. 23 report submitted to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The survey, which was made available online and in-person at district office, is part of an effort to improve the county’s restaurant grading system.

Among the survey findings:

  • More than 85 percent of respondents consider restaurant grades (A, B, C) before eating out
  • 93 percent said they look for the current letter grade when they arrive at a restaurant, 34 percent look at Yelp reviews and approximately 14 percent look at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health website
  • More than 70 percent of respondents said it would be helpful for the inspection score (ie. 92, 85, 78) to be posted along with the A, B or C grade, as well as the health code violations observed during the latest inspection
  • Roughly 75 percent said they would like to see the date of the inspection
  • Around half of respondents said they would access information about restaurant inspection reports with their smartphones if a QR code was made available on the grade card.

The results of the survey were included in the fourth monthly progress report on a series of recommendations proposed by the health department in August.

Prompted by a Los Angeles News Group review of almost two years of inspection data, the recommendations outline a series of current problems and potential fixes to the 17-year-old grading system, which allows many restaurants and markets to operate with major health threats and gives those facilities high health grades, according to the data.

‘You can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk’ Demographics suck

I’ve never been one for survey-dictated demographics. Born at the end of the baby boom, too early for what ever came next, all I know is I had to suffer through disco in high school.

chipotle.slide.jan.16Despite some grammatical mistakes, I sorta got it right when talking about Chipotle.

NPR says the WastED salad has been available at Sweetgreen restaurants, making use of the restaurants scraps – broccoli leaves, carrot ribbons, roasted kale stems, romaine hearts, roasted cabbage cores, roasted broccoli stalks and roasted bread butts all mixed with arugula, Parmesan, spicy sunflower seeds and pesto vinaigrette.

I wanna barf.

Both consumers and food purveyors are focused on removing GMOs, artificial ingredients, preservatives, antibiotics and growth hormones from food. Even fast-food outlets are using more eggs from cage-free chickens and dumping ingredients that have been genetically modified.

Millenials – now more numerous than Baby Boomers – have a huge impact. The corporate food world is keenly interested in how and what this large group of consumers eats. And they do buy and eat differently than older generations. They order ingredients online, learn to cook from You Tube as well as cookbooks and websites. They care about the environment, ethical treatment of animals and community. They frequently use food delivery services rather than going to the supermarket, and order meal kits that deliver prepared ingredients.

Do they care about food safety?

Surveys still suck: And what would those educational programs be?

Foodborne illness is a global public health issue.

shuttle.bus.vomitYoung adults may work in foodservice while they are university students, and their habits may later shape the practices and well-being of their children. The objective of this study was to establish baseline data and assess the food safety knowledge of 18- to 26-year-old Univ. of Maine students.

Demographic questions and the previously validated Food Safety Knowledge Questionnaire (FSKQ) were placed online. Of 123 people who responded to the email recruitment notice, 104 Univ. of Maine undergraduates aged 18 to 26 years completed the survey. The average score among all participants was 60% correct (53 points out of a possible 89 points). Survey questions that required participants to identify common sources of foodborne pathogens had the lowest average percent correct (31%). Less than 50% of participants were able to correctly identify several high-risk foods, including sliced melon, raw sprouts, and unpasteurized fruit juice.

Our findings indicate a need for educational programs for 18- to 26-year-old Univ. of Maine students in regards to common sources of foodborne pathogens and proper handling of fresh produce and that food safety knowledge among university students has not improved since publication of a national survey using the FSKQ in 2006. Effective educational programs are needed to ensure that young adults understand food risks and appropriate food handling practices.

Assessing the food safety knowledge of University of Maine students

Journal of Food Science Education, Volume 15, Issue 1, pages 14–22, January 2016, DOI: 10.1111/1541-4329.12076

Chelsea C. Ferk, Beth L. Calder, and Mary Ellen Camire

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1541-4329.12076/abstract;jsessionid=72744E4871E4360B72D6F5057C833C98.f02t04

Surveys suck: Consumers don’t accurately report what they do in kitchen

Research utilizing both survey and observational techniques has found that consumers do not accurately report their own food handling behaviors. The goal of this study was to objectively observe conditions related to food safety risks and sanitation in domestic kitchens in an urban environment.

survey-saysSubjects (n = 100) were recruited from Philadelphia, PA. Homes were visited over a one-year period by two trained researchers using a previously developed audit tool to document conditions related to sanitation, refrigeration, and food storage.

Potential food safety risks identified included evidence of pest infestation (65%), perishable food stored at room temperature (16%), storage of raw meat above ready-to-eat foods (97% of homes where raw meat was present), and a lack of hot running water in the kitchen (3%). Compliance with correct refrigeration practices was also low, with 43% of refrigerator temperatures ≥ 41°F, and only 4% of refrigerators containing a thermometer. Consumers of minority race/ethnicity were more likely to have evidence of pest infestation in the home, lack a dishwasher and lack a cutting board in the kitchen, while Caucasian consumers were more likely to have an animal present in the kitchen during the audit visit.

 Visual audit of food safety hazards present in homes in an urban environment

Food Protection Trends, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 290-301, July 2015

Patricia A. Borrusso, Shauna Henley, Jennifer J. Quinlan

http://www.foodprotection.org/publications/food-protection-trends/article-archive/2015-07visual-audit-of-food-safety-hazards-present-in-homes-in-an-urban-environment/

 

Surveys still suck: Consumer-reported handling of raw poultry products at home

Salmonella and Campylobacter cause an estimated combined total of 1.8 million foodborne infections each year in the United States. Most cases of salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry or with cross-contamination. Between 1998 and 2008, 20% of Salmonella and 16% of Campylobacter foodborne disease outbreaks were associated with food prepared inside the home.

barfblog.Stick It InA nationally representative Web survey of U.S. adult grocery shoppers (n = 1,504) was conducted to estimate the percentage of consumers who follow recommended food safety practices when handling raw poultry at home. The survey results identified areas of low adherence to current recommended food safety practices: not washing raw poultry before cooking, proper refrigerator storage of raw poultry, use of a food thermometer to determine doneness, and proper thawing of raw poultry in cold water.

Nearly 70% of consumers reported washing or rinsing raw poultry before cooking it, a potentially unsafe practice because “splashing” of contaminated water may lead to the transfer of pathogens to other foods and other kitchen surfaces.

Only 17.5% of consumers reported correctly storing raw poultry in the refrigerator. Sixty-two percent of consumers own a food thermometer, and of these, 26% or fewer reported using one to check the internal temperature of smaller cuts of poultry and ground poultry. Only 11% of consumers who thaw raw poultry in cold water reported doing so correctly.

The study results, coupled with other research findings, will inform the development of science-based consumer education materials that can help reduce foodborne illness from Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 1, January 2015, pp. 4-234, pp. 180-186(7)

Kosa, Katherine M.; Cates, Sheryl C.; Bradley, Samantha; Chambers IV, Edgar; Godwin, Sandria

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2015/00000078/00000001/art00025

Survey says (and they suck) Florida worried about food safety

Floridians rank the importance of food safety behind only the economy and health care, according to a new study from the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education.

st.petersburg.florida.waterskiIn the online public opinions survey surrounding food-related issues in Florida, 85 percent of respondents said food safety was highly or extremely important. Floridians in the study ranked food safety third out of 15 identified issues, followed by food production practices at No. 9 and genetically modified food at No. 14. PIE Center researchers developed the 15-item index to track trends on how Floridians rank the importance of the issues over time.

Joy Rumble, an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication and the PIE Center researcher who led the study (seriously, more titles?) said, “They’re really concerned about food safety. That was a really important issue for them. Although GMOs seem like a big deal in the media, when compared to the 15 issues, respondents are ranking GMOs toward the bottom.”

jimmy.buffett.Duh.

Doug Archer, associate dean for research with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and a food safety expert told Southeast AgNetd that foodborne disease statistics suggest that Floridians may give themselves more credit for their food-handling habits than they deserve. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Florida’s foodborne-illness rate led the nation from 1998 to 2008, but this may be at least in part attributable to the outstanding reporting system of the Florida Department of Health and the counties.

“Given our rate of foodborne illness, I don’t think what they think they do is actually what they do,” Archer said.

The PIE Center will host a webinar at 2 p.m. on Dec. 17 to dive deeper into the food survey topic. Rumble and Archer will discuss the survey’s food safety results.

Then on Jan. 28 at 1 p.m., the center will host a second webinar with Rumble and Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal genomics and biotechnology expert from the University of California, Davis, to discuss the survey’s findings on genetically modified foods.

Learn more about the webinars at http://www.piecenter.com/easy-as-pie/.