The third annual UK Consumer Attitudes to Food survey, published today [Monday] by the Food Standards Agency, reveals a small but significant decrease in concern about food safety – from 71% in 2000 to 68% in 2002 – and an overall decline in the number of people with concerns about specific food issues. 

Most significant of these declines are a fall in concern about BSE (from 61% in 2000 to 45% in 2002), and a fall in concern about GM foods (from 43% in 2000 to 36% in 2002).

While the survey showed a fall in concern about safety and hygiene standards of market stalls selling meat, and local butchers, there was, however, a significant increase in the number of people concerned about hygiene standards in fastfood outlets (from 18% in 2001 to 23% in 2002). The survey also found that only 7% of consumers were likely to report concerns over hygiene standards in a catering outlet, compared to 11% in 2001.

The percentage of people claming to have suffered food poisoning in 2002 was 13%, no change from 2001, and of those, 75% attributed their illness to food prepared outside the home. As in the two previous years, most people who were ill from food poisoning did not report their illness to anyone.

As in previous years, only 5% of UK households has one or more member who is vegetarian or on a special diet. Vegetarianism is most common in the South East of England, while consumers in the South of England are most likely to eat organic food.

As in previous years, 25% of consumers still believe that food labels contain too little information, with one in five consumers finding labels ‘fairly difficult’ to understand, and one in twenty finding them ‘very difficult’ to understand.

There has been an increase in the percentage of people who look for information about calories on food labels, 29% in 2002 compared to 21% in 2000, while more people are looking for information on whether or not a product is of GM origin, 20% of respondents in 2002 compared to 25% in 2000.