A new article from the Investor’s Business Daily focuses on a drop in consumer confidence in the American food supply:

"There’s a great interest by both the supplier community and retailers to identify and trace foods," said Jill Hollingsworth, FMI’s group vice president of food safety programs. "Retailers want to know more about where foods come from. The old system is just not enough anymore."

A new system can’t come soon enough. Only 66% of shoppers, the lowest since 1989, are confident that the food they buy at grocery stores is safe, according to a survey by the Arlington, Va.-based FMI, whose members represent three quarters of domestic grocery sales. That’s down from 82% last year.

People are even less comfortable with restaurant food, with only 42% feeling safe about meals eaten away from home, the survey said. No fewer than 38% of consumers have stopped buying items, led by produce, meat and poultry, because of outbreaks and recalls in 2006, the association said.

And while consumers are feeling less confident in the safety of our food, the Dow Jones MarketWatch published a story on how we can do more to protect ourselves when shopping at supermarkets.  Tips include:

  • At the grocery store, make sure to double bag meats, and keep using bags even in your cooler. The bags will help to prevent cross contamination by containing any juices that can leak from the thin plastic wrap. If you don’t see plastic bags near the meats, head back to the produce section and snag a few.
  • When it comes to fresh produce, choose products with less damage, bruising and punctures. The skin of produce such as apples and cucumbers provides a barrier to contamination, says Michelle Smith, a scientist with the FDA’s food safety office

    "The worst kind of damage would be a wound that would allow pathogens into the interior," she says.

  • When you get to the grocery store, look at its layout, and figure out how to make sure that you pick up meats and dairy last, recommends Sam Beattie, a food safety extension specialist at Iowa State University.
  • Just as you wouldn’t want the local market to store meats and produce together, it’s important for you to use the separate bins in your refrigerator.