A little over two weeks ago, IBM released the results of a survey that it had conducted among adult grocery shoppers in the ten largest cities in the United States (100 in each city). The survey was intended to gather opinions about food safety issues, and what it found is as disappointing as it is not surprising. For example, less than 20% of consumers trust food companies to develop and sell food products that are self and healthy. Moreover, 60% of consumers are concerned about the safety of the food that they purchase. And the cause of this significant drop in trust? The rise in food recalls linked to contaminated and unsafe food products. According to the survey results, 83% of the people surveyed were able to name a food product that had been recalled in the last years, with nearly half (46%) naming peanut butter as a recently recalled product.
The irony here is that the rise in contamination-related recalls can be explained, in large part, by the drive for greater profits through: the use of cheaper ingredients purchased from suppliers willing to cut-corners (see, e.g. Peanut Corporation of America and its customer Kelloggs); the failure to update and maintain manufacturing facilities to ensure the highest standards of safety (see, e.g., Cargill and its peanut butter plant); insufficient product testing and quality control (see, e.g. Dole baged Spinach); and over-reliance on the consumer to cook the product "properly" as a means of making it safe, when it should have been safe to begin with (see, e.g., Banquet pot pies and Topps-brand and American Chef’s Selection brand frozen ground beef patties). But by putting profits above safety, food manufacturers are trading short term gains for long term losses. If consumers lose trust in manufactured food products, they will stop buying them. Look, for example, at peanut butter sales, which still have not recovered, and may never do so.
To read the full press release discussing the survey results, please click on Continue Reading.