Survey: Disconnect Between Food Industry, Consumers on Food Safety
How important is food safety to foodservice operations?
Consider that six in 10 consumers in North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe said they would never eat at a restaurant again if they contracted a foodborne illness or food poisoning, according to Zebra Technologies Corp.’s “Food Safety Supply Chain Vision Study.”
Considering the pressure that foodservice operations are under with the ongoing pandemic, especially dine-in restaurants, the last thing they need is a foodborne illness incident.
Zebra Technologies, a Lincolnshire, Ill.-based that manufactures and sells marking, tracking and computer printing technologies, surveyed nearly 5,000 consumers and 462 food and beverage industry decision-makers earlier this year for its report. The study highlights the views of consumers as well as food and beverage industry decision-makers from North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe on distribution and warehouses to grocery stores and restaurants around safety, traceability and transparency.
In North America, the survey found:
• The average trust level in companies and brands to ensure food and beverages are safe for public consumption is two and a half times higher in industry decision-makers (45%) than consumers (18%).
• Ninety-one percent of surveyed food and beverage decision-makers believe their companies have an important role in implementing food safety solutions.
• More than six in 10 (64%) consumers cite fear of foodborne illness/disease as their primary reason for wanting more information about their food source.
Overall, surveyed consumers reported their top food safety concerns include restaurant kitchen and wait staff hygiene, foodborne outbreaks, illness from contaminated food, and food and beverage recalls. Slightly more than 80% of surveyed consumers said companies have an important role to play in implementing food safety solutions and an ethical responsibility to ensure the safe handling of their food. Most consumers (70%) said it is important to know how their food and ingredients are manufactured, prepared and handled, while 69% agreed knowing how their food is sourced is also important.
Zebra Technologies said its study reveals a disconnect between what consumers believe and what industry decision-makers think. Almost seven in 10 (69%) decision-makers say the industry is prepared to manage food traceability and transparency, but only 35% of consumers agree. Furthermore, only 13% of consumers felt the industry was extremely prepared today to manage food traceability and be transparent about how food travels through the supply chain, whereas 27% of decision-makers reported feeling this way.
“Findings from our study show that while the industry is taking measures to ensure a more transparent supply chain, more work needs to be done in order to increase consumer confidence and improve food traceability,” says Mark Wheeler, director of supply chain solutions for Zebra Technologies. “Businesses naturally have more information available to them but can improve consumers’ faith in their food sources by providing them access to the same information.”
A bright spot identified in the research is the role that technology can play in closing both these gaps in both the short- and long-term, Zebra Technologies found. An overwhelming majority (90%) of decision-makers acknowledged that investments in traceability-focused solutions will provide them with a competitive advantage by enabling them to meet the expectations of consumers. When asked about the top benefits that technology-based track and trace solutions would provide, nearly six in 10 decision-makers cited risk reductions with proper handling, transportation and storage and tracking product perishability.