The food (safety) cycle: recall, forget, repeat

Memories can be short when it comes to food recalls.

Amy Schoenfeld writes in Sunday’s New York Times that while Americans are concerned about food contamination, experts say that recalls have only a short-term effect on consumers.

When spinach was recalled in 2006, consumers took over a year to return to previous spending patterns. But after recent recalls of peanut butter, beef and eggs, customers came back in a matter of weeks.

One explanation for this is that eggs are a staple; nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they eat them. By contrast, only 5 in 10 Americans say they are spinach eaters. After the spinach recall, 10 percent of spinach eaters said they were unlikely to eat spinach again. In contrast, 3 percent of egg eaters said they would stop purchasing eggs.

Rather than waiting to sue after sickness, consumers could use their buying power to demand microbiologically safer food, if someone would start marketing at retail.