Along with drinking water safety and crime prevention, food safety remains a top public health concern among Americans, according to a recent survey of more than 400 consumers by CMF&Z Marketing Communications. The annual survey, first conducted in 1993, measures consumer opinions on a wide range of food safety issues.

Eighty-three percent of consumers responding to this year's survey rated food safety as a "very important" public issue, up from 80 percent in 1995. Consumers ranked food safety slightly below drinking water safety (89 percent) and crime prevention (86 percent) as top public issues.

Respondents cited health consciousness and a higher awareness of processing issues and food problems as the reasons that food safety has become more important to them. In 1999, 18 percent of consumers said food safety was important because of greater awareness of processing issues. This year, the number jumped to 28 percent.

The 2000 survey showed that bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, remain the top food safety issue among consumers. It also showed that the Internet is emerging as a source of information about food safety. In 1999, 23 percent of consumers said they used the Internet to find food safety information, and 2 percent ranked the Internet as their main source of food safety information. In 2000, those numbers grew to 32 percent and 7 percent, respectively.