What are Consumers Most Concerned about? Food Chemicals, says new survey

U.S. consumers continue to have significant concerns about chemicals in food. This, according to the latest annual food industry survey.  More specifically, the latest 2021 survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) found:

A surprising 29% of consumers rated chemicals in food as their top food safety concern, more than any other issue, including foodborne illness from bacteria. All respondents rated chemicals in food among the top three concerns. Chemicals in food has been the top concern every year since 2017, tying risk from COVID-19 from food last year. It has been a significant concern back to the first IFIC Food and Health Survey in 2009.  Additionally, 54% of consumers reported it is important that ingredients do not have “chemical-sounding names”* including 26% that rate it “very important.” Their opinion was primarily based on food safety and healthfulness concerns.

Consumer Food Concerns chart-2021

When consumers were asked to identify their most important food safety concern, 29% selected either “chemicals in food” or “carcinogens or cancer-causing chemicals in food” as their #1 concern compared to 26% for “foodborne illness from bacteria.” Adding in consumers who treated “pesticides” and “food additives and ingredients” as chemicals to the total means half of consumers rate chemicals as their top concern.**

* In reaction to consumer concerns over “ingredients that sound like chemicals”, food companies have undertaken “clean label” programs that either remove these ingredients (hooray) or use names that do not sound like chemicals (which obscures the fact that the synthetic or industrialized chemicals are still present in the food). 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to start ensuring that the chemicals in U.S. food are safe and healthy rather than leaving consumers to judge products based on the sound of the ingredient names. Instead, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal oversight and regulatory agency with both the responsibility and the authority for food safety, allows companies to decide in secret that additives are safe, fails to consider the cumulative health effect of chemicals in the diet, and lacks any systematic reassessment of past decisions even when new evidence shows potential harm.

**Consumer concern about chemicals in food has been going on for several years now. Beginning in 2017 through 2019, between 33%-35% of consumers rated chemicals in food as their top food safety concern, more than anything else. 

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