Make Our Food Safe

Food Safety Survey Review

TO:  Make Our Food Safe Coalition

FROM: Benenson Strategy Group and Voter Consumer Research

RE: Food Safety

Key Findings from the Survey:

Broad awareness of incidents of food contamination has created widespread concern among Americans about the safety of the food they eat.

  • Voters nationwide have near universal awareness of food safety issues - 85% of voters say they hear news about contaminated food, with 1 in 3 voters saying they hear about it frequently.
  • Consequently, a majority of Americans (52%) are worried about their food being contaminated by bacteria that makes it unsafe to eat.

While voters see a clear role for the government to play when it comes to food safety, they have low levels of confidence in the government’s current efforts to protect our food supply.

  • Only 1 in 5 voters nationwide (20%) are “very confident” in the effectiveness of the federal food safety system, and only 23% are “very confident” in the FDA’s ability to ensure that our food is safe to eat.
    • While 60% are “somewhat confident” in the effectiveness of the federal food safety system, the number of voters who have a high level of confidence is very low given the importance voters place on health and safety issues.
  • These soft confidence ratings are particularly striking since voters believe the safety of our food supply represents a core governmental responsibility.
    • 72% say the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays an essential or very important role in protecting Americans’ health and safety.
      • Even across party lines, there is little doubt about the critical role the FDA plays in keeping Americans safe: 82% of Democrats, 71% of Independents, and 63% of Republicans say the role the FDA plays is essential or very important.

In fact, many believe the government is not doing enough to protect our food supply and support a number of measures to improve the safety of imported foods.

  • More than 1 in 3 voters (37%) think that the federal government is doing “too little” to ensure that food imported from other countries is safe from contamination.
    • While 51% of all voters believe the government is doing the right amount regarding imported food, even these voters show extremely high levels of support for measures that would better ensure import safety (the first initiative listed in Table 1 is strongly favored by 70% of voters who believe the government is doing the right amount).

Voters want to see the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) fully implemented.

  • When given a short description of the FSMA, which was passed last year, voters showed extremely high levels of support.
    • 87% of voters support the act, including a substantial 51% who strongly support it after hearing an introduction that read:
      • In 2011, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law. This law established new national safety standards for produce and processed foods. It also gave the FDA expanded power to inspect food facilities, oversee food imports, and recall contaminated food.
    • There are wide majorities of support across political lines: 97% of Democrats, 86% of Independents and 77% of Republicans support the FSMA.

There are strong and broad levels of support for key aspects of FSMA, even across party lines.

  • Voters firmly support further action on food safety, particularly three key aspects of the new food safety law, which receive intense and widespread support that crosses ideological and partisan lines.
    • More than 6 in 10 strongly favor strengthening the FDA’s role related to imported food, and voters are particularly favorable towards actions that require foreign food producers to certify that they are meeting the same standards as American producers.

Table 1: Support for Food Safety Responsibilities the FDA Could Undertake

% Strongly Favor/% Total Favor

Total

Democrats

Independents

Republicans

Requiring food importers to certify that the food products they bring into the United States are as safe as those produced in the United States.

73/91

75/91

75/91

70/91

Requiring food companies to establish procedures that minimize the chance of food contamination and monitoring those procedures to make sure they are effective.

61/91

71/94

60/88

51/90

Requiring growers of fresh fruit and vegetables to meet nationwide safety standards for water quality, manure use, and worker sanitation.

61/88

75/93

60/86

46/83

 

The bottom line: Voters are worried about the safety of our food supply, and they expect the federal government to take action to ensure that the food they eat is as safe as possible. Despite polarization on many political issues, food safety represents one of the rare issues where there is consensus across the political spectrum for implementing stronger food safety initiatives.

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The Benenson Strategy Group and Voter Consumer Research conducted interviews from August 19-26, 2012 with 1,000 registered voters who are likely to vote in the 2012 presidential election. At the 95% confidence level, the margin of error is ±3.02%. Margins of error may be higher among subgroups.


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