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June 2010 Archives

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (06/28/2010) --Americans are almost universally aware of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and they are concerned about its potential impact on the safety of Gulf seafood, according to new data from a continuing survey conducted by the University of Minnesota.

The survey is part of an ongoing weekly consumer confidence poll conducted by The Food Industry Center at the U of M. During the most recent survey, 99 percent of respondents said they were aware of the spill and 85 percent say they are following news about it closely or have heard a lot about it.

The possible effects of the spill on Gulf seafood are of at least some concern to 89 percent of respondents, and 50 percent said they are "extremely concerned." When asked how the oil spill will affect their consumption of seafood, 54 percent report some impact, with 44 percent of that group saying they will only eat seafood that they know does not come from the Gulf of Mexico, and another 31 percent saying they will eat less seafood regardless of where it comes from.

"Given the amount of news coverage the oil spill has received, these results may not be surprising, but it does show that consumers are connecting the event to food safety," said Dennis Degeneffe, a research fellow at The Food Industry Center.

The ongoing study continuously tracks consumers' perceptions about food safety and the food supply, using telephone surveys of about 175 people each week. The total sample for the six-weeks since the beginning of the oil spill is 1,076. The study is conducted jointly with the Louisiana State University AgCenter and is funded by the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, a Homeland Security Center of Excellence.

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Gulf Oil Spill Negatively Impacts Consumer Perceptions of the Safety of the U.S. Food Supply


Data collected in the continuous Consumer Food Safety/ Defense Tracking Study (CFST) since the week of May 3, 2010, shows a sizable decline in its Preparedness Index (PPI) - indicating likely consumer concern over the preparedness of the country to deal with the impact of the Gulf Oil Spill on food safety. Between the weeks of May 3rd and May 17th the Preparedness Index fell 16 points.

The Preparedness Index is composed of the following two questions:

"In thinking about food safety, that is the natural or accidental contamination of food, do you think the U. S. food supply is safer today than it was a year ago?" (Uses a 6 point scale with 1=Definitely Not Safer, and 6=Definitely Safer).

"Thinking about food defense do you think the United States is better prepared for a terrorist attack on the food supply than it was a year ago?" (Uses a 6 point scale with 1=Definitely Not Safer, and 6=Definitely Safer).

A copy of the Index graph is available at May 2010 Preparedness Index.pdf. For more results and trends from the CFST project and a more detailed description of the indexes and methodology, please visit the CFST web page.

The CFST project will continue measuring the impact of the Gulf Oil Spill on consumer confidence. Several questions have been added to the survey to examine the implications of the Gulf Oil Spill on consumers' perceptions on food safety, and seafood safety in particular. Project researchers continue to monitor the oil spill incident and will provide future updates on the Food Thought blog as they unfold.

CFST research is a joint project between The Food Industry Center and the Louisiana State University AgCenter with funding from the National Center for Food Protection and Defense. The Perceived Preparedness Index (PPI) measures the change in consumers' belief about how prepared we (government and private companies) are to respond to food safety incidents. The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) measures the change in consumers' confidence in the safety of the U.S. food system. When the indexes were initiated in May 2008, only 30 percent of consumers indicated that they believed the food supply was safer than one year ago.

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