Recent consumer research data indicate changing perception of “food safety.”

  • With implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in full swing — and with FDA’s hazard analysis and risk-based preventive control (HARPC) requirements set to take effect for most companies this September — “food safety” is a major topic of discussion among industry stakeholders today.
  • From a recent survey of 5,000 consumers conducted by Deloitte (in partnership with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)), data indicate that consumers now take a broader approach to the concept of “food safety” than some might think.  Unsurprisingly, a majority of participants expected safe food to be “free from harmful elements.”  However, significant percentages of participants also opted for other criteria not typically considered to define “food safety” such as:  (1) clear and accurate labeling; (2) clear information on ingredient sourcing (e.g., traceability, transparency); (3) fewer ingredients/less processing; and (4) nutritional content.
  • We are unlikely to see the concept of “food safety” abandon its traditional underpinnings in the production of sanitary and pathogen-free food.  However, these data suggest that consumer perception may be evolving toward a more complex and nuanced definition of “food safety” that could influence the way manufacturers and marketers position their products in the years ahead.