Food Engineering
TECH FLASH

Food safety is most important issue for processors, consumers

February 10, 2012
UL Chart
Product safety and reliability are the top considerations that affect food manufacturers’ abilities to compete effectively in the marketplace. Source: Underwriters Labs.

In a new global study from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), food manufacturers identified product safety as a top business priority, but the majority of consumers believe food manufacturers can do even more to earn their confidence. The study, Navigating the Product Mindset, explores the connections and contradictions between perceptions of consumers and food manufacturers on the issues of food safety, innovation, performance and sustainability. Global perceptions were collected from consumers and manufacturers in China, India, Germany and the US.

“Food manufacturers understand that product safety is imperative to the success of their business, but a significant opportunity remains to better demonstrate and communicate their commitment to boost consumer confidence,” says Hank Lambert, general manager of UL’s Global Food and Water Businesses. “This research demonstrates the importance of moving existing food safety management to the next level.”

Other key insights from the study include:

• Food manufacturers express confidence in their performance related to product safety, innovation, sustainability and reliability, but consumers feel food manufacturers can do a better job testing food products and especially fresh foods.

• Consumers’ primary safety concerns for food products relate to contracting foodborne illness, exposure to unsafe chemical additives and unsanitary conditions.

• Food manufacturers agree that consumers are becoming more empowered. They value positive consumer claims on product quality and safety more than government endorsements.

• Even though manufacturers say it is their job to communicate product safety information to consumers, the majority of consumers find it difficult to locate that information.

• Ingredient suppliers are more likely to hold the manufacturers that assemble the final product accountable for safety, but consumers feel it is more important to know the country of origin for each of the individual ingredients that constitute a food product rather than where the finished product is assembled.

Specific findings include:

• With new government regulations and heightened consumer awareness of food safety, 92 percent of food manufacturers agree product safety is becoming more important.

• Only 2 percent of food manufacturers feel their company is behind the curve in product safety, yet 70 percent of consumers do not think fresh-food manufacturers conduct thorough testing before introducing new products to the market.

• Over three-quarters of consumers believe processed food manufacturers are not making better products today than five years ago.

• Even with manufacturers’ focus on product safety, 76 percent of consumers find it difficult to locate product safety information about fresh food products.

• 50 percent of food manufacturers agree that a direct relationship exists between product quality and country of origin, and 50 percent of consumers across all geographies surveyed said they are always or usually aware of the country of origin for food products.

To obtain the full study with all key findings, visit: http://ul.com/productmindset/.