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The Food Standards Agency's Biannual Public Attitudes Tracker results, published this week, shows that we as consumers are progressively paying more attention to the hygiene standards of the establishments in which we eat and drink, as well as those from which we buy food and drink to consume elsewhere. I would hope that the tracking survey, which monitors changes in consumer attitudes towards food-related issues by questioning consumers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, reflects the feelings of those throughout the developed world, in as much as the more aware of the issues we become and the more vocal we are about them, the higher the standards we should enjoy.
The top food safety issues of concern for respondents were food hygiene when eating out (33%), chemicals from the environment (such as lead) in food (30%), food additives (29%) and food poisoning (28%). The top wider food issues of concern were the amount of sugar in food (55%), food waste (51%), food prices (43%) and animal welfare (42%). Concern about food safety in UK restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways was cited by 45%, while concern about food safety in UK shops and supermarkets was cited by 43%.
The most commonly reported ways of knowing about hygiene standards were via hygiene stickers / certificates and the general appearance of the premises (both 61%). And while we in the industry know that even if an establishment looks clean, it doesn't necessarily mean it's really clean and - importantly - hygienic, the fact that the wider public tends to trust the FSA's judgment means that premises able to display a five-star sticker on the door are going to do better than those that don't have a sticker at all.
The result that most surprised me is that only 82% reported that they were aware of hygiene standards in places they eat out at or buy food from - I would have expected it to have been more! Years ago, I tended to be put-off eating somewhere if it looked visibly dirty - now I make a point of checking out a place before even setting foot in the door. With an abundance of reviews all over the Web, a complaint about an establishment's lack of cleanliness means I won't use it, so it surprises me that 18% of people don't seem to be that concerned...
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2nd August 2018