My long-time friend, Dr. A. Elizabeth Sloan, whose business is analyzing and predicting industry trends, recently shared information with me on consumer attitudes pertaining to food safety. I have to say the statistics she shared were a bit frightening. Apparently, 35% of millennials and 24% of baby boomers are not confident in the safety of our food supply. Reading through the shared data, it is obvious that what consumers fear is very different from what food safety experts worry about. Among the items troubling consumers are GMOs, residues, BPA, and consuming foods past the use by dates. These four concerns are areas that we as a food industry need to address on company websites, press releases, and in other areas.
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The National Academy of Sciences published a 400-page report in 2016 that addressed the safety of GMO products, yet these products continue to be feared and referred to as “Frankenfoods.” Consumers worry about residues of all sorts, yet this is low on the totem pole as a far as a food safety issue. Many seem to believe farmers who grow crops commonly dump vast quantities of pesticides on their fields. That is certainly a fallacy. On the other hand, very few realize that organic growers actually apply pesticides to their crops. Yes, Virginia there are pesticides approved for organic growing. And the attention given to BPA is unwarranted. The FDA recently issued a 250-page plus report highlighting the safety of BPA and its uses in packaging systems.
There are other food safety issues that are cursed by misinformation or, to use an un-popular term, “fake news.” The food industry needs to step up and address these issues and work to communicate with the general public. As someone who worked in food safety for many years around the globe, I noticed most companies I worked with had world-class food safety programs, yet hardly anyone makes the effort to “blow their own horn.” I’ve been told legal does not want this done due to liability, which makes things even more sad. If the food industry cannot or is afraid to communicate what is being done to ensure the safety of what it produces, the least it can do is make an effort to ensure that good science is shared.
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