>Does anyone recall a survey done by a national polling organization
>which showed that some 50% of consumers were concerned about safe
>food issues and that many of them were willing to pay more for
>organic and sustainable food?
per chance i stumbled over that (from gb), it's not exactly on
organic, but more on food health and food "purity" and "natural"
Free Radicals and Food Additives
Okezie L. Aruoma and Barry Halliwell
University of London King's College
Taylor & Francis
London & New York - Philadelphia
Levels of concern and issues of priority to consumers have of
course changed over time. In 1983 a survey of 968 people by
Consumers' Association found that 62% would decide against buying
a food because of what they saw in the list of contents on the
label. (For socio-economic groups A and B the figure was 74%)
When asked what would have to be in the food to stop them buying
it: 59% referred to specific additives or additives in general;
35% said specific foods; 10% said soya or meat substitute; 8%
said lots of fat or annnal fat; and 61% said sugar.
In the following year (1998) a Consumers' Association survey of
1107 adults found that 74% of people asked thought some chemical
residues were dangerous to health, and 62% said they were
prepared to pay more for food produced without chemical treatment
(Consumers' Association, 1988).
A 1989 National Opinion Poll/Mintel survey of the attitudes of
933 adults to agrochemicals found 26% wanted to see all
agrochemicals banned (30% of women), 45% wanted to see
agrochemicals significantly reduced, 33% claimed they would be
prepared to pay up to 10% more for organic produce, and 15%
claimed to be prepared to pay premiums of more than 25% for
organic produce (National Opinion Poll/Mintel, 1989).
A Consumers' Association Survey of 1477 shoppers' views on
organic food in 1989 found that of the 22% who had purposely
bought organic food, 20% said that freedom from chemicals or
residues was their main reason for buying (of the 78% who had
never bought it, 27% were put off by it's higher price and 19%
were happy with conventional food) (Consumers' Association,
The Gallup surveys in mid-1990 found that people in the USA had
broadly similar concerns to People in the UK, despite significant
differences in cultural eating habits and publicity about food
issues. The survey of Americans found that most were worried
about the quality of their diet. One in four said they were
taking more heed of food warnings and nutrition advice (Gallup,
1990a). The equivalent UK survey of almost 1000 people found
that, in some cases, British consumers were more willing than
Americans to change their diets in accordance with health advice.
1.4. UK and USA comparison: almost 1000 people in the UK and 1225
people in the USA were asked 'what efforts are you personally making
to..' avoid certain food items or to eat more of others
(Don't know' replies have been omitted) (Gallup. 1990a)
UK USA| UK USA
Eat green vegetables | Avoid food with a lot of fat?
Strong effort 65 59 | Strong effort 52 57
Some effort 25 28 | Some effort 27 30
No effort 10 13 | No effort 20 13
Avoid food with additives? | Avoid red meat?
Strong effort 36 30 | Strong effort 21 28
Some effort 34 40 | Some effort 21 37
No effort 30 29 | No effort 57 35
Avoid a lot of salt/sodium? | Eat foods high in fiber?
Strong effort 37 49 | Strong effort 51 43
Some effort 27 29 | Some effort 30 39
No effort 35 21 | No effort 19 17
Avoid beverages with caffeine?| Eat a wide variety of food?
Strong effort 23 32 | Strong effort 62 54
Some effort 22 29 | Some effort 29 36
No effort 55 41 | No effort 8 10
Eat fresh food and vegetables?| Avoid high cholesterol?
Strong effort 74 63 | Strong effort 38 49
Some effort 20 30 | Some effort 33 32
No effort 6 7 | No effort 29 18
Avoid foods with lot of sugar?| Avoid fried foods?
Strong effort 42 45 | Strong effort 48 41
Some effort 30 35 | Some effort 27 38
No effort 25 20 | No effort 25 18
Research in Ireland suggests that consumers experience a
hierarchy of concerns: there is usually less concern about
intrinsic, basic food components; greater concern with the impact
of processing (added salt, added sugar and fibre lost by
processing); and greatest concern about additives and contam-
inants (Nash, 1988). There are some deviations from this
hierarchy of concerns, which indicates that other factors are
involved. Nash suggests that the level of concern is related to
the perceived degree of control which a consumer has over the
status of the food. When a consumer is presented with a range of
products which can be evaluated for quality and wholesomeness by
inspection, and when the products are fully labelled, the
consumer is in reasonable control of the choice.
Extraneous 'contaminants', which may include veterinary drug
residues, pesticide residues, small chemical changes caused by
irradiation and microorgamsms, are possibly a source of greater
concern to many consumers because they cannot be spotted by
looking at food. At present, information and education about
food issues are inadequate, so it is not very surprising if
consumers sometimes get their priorities wrong.
Concerns about food are not likely to disappear while
significant numbers of consumers feel that food is not being
produced in the way it could or should be. New concerns are
already in embryonic state: mycotoxins, products of
biotechnology, new preservation processes, nutritional
implications of caloriefree ingredients and environmental effects
of food packaging, to name a few. Both consumer organizations
and food producers will always be fire-fighting until we solve
the basic problem, which is that consumers no longer have faith
in the government to ensure that food is as safe as it can
The long-term aim must be to restore consumer confidence in
decisionmaking processes. Slick public-relations campaigns and
bland reassurances are not a lasting solution. The regulatory
systems need to be made much more open so that consumers can see
clearly the basis on which decisions are made. Consumers and
their representatives should be allowed access to safety data
CONSUMERS' ASSOCIATION, (1987), Consumer attitudes to food
irradiation: report of a general public survey, London:
FDS MARKFT RESEARCH GROUP, (1990), reported in Today, 18 May.
GALLUP, (1990a), survey reported in Daily Telegraph, 7 June.
HARRIS RESEARCH CENTRE, (1989), Survey reported in The Grocer,
Marketing, (1989), 'Crisis in food', 26 October, London.
NASH, P., (1988), Proceedings of the Conference on Pure Food
Production, Dublin: The Agricultural Institute.
PRESTO and KMS, (1986), Eating What Comes Naturally, Middlesex:
RIMMER, J., (1989), Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Information Bureau
'The environmentally aware consumer', Farm Shop and Pick Your
Own conference, November.
COX, B. D., BLAXTER, M., BUCKLEY, A. FEHNER, N. P.,
GOLDING, J., GORE, M., HUPPERT, F. A., NICKSON, J., ROTH,
M., STARK, J., WARDWORTH, M. E. J. and WHICHELOW, M.,
(1987), The Health and Life Style Survey, The Health Promotion
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