Consumers lax in food-safety precautions: research

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Despite the increase in media coverage in recent years about foodborne illness outbreaks, new International Food Information Council Foundation research shows that fewer people are taking basic precautions that could significantly reduce their risk of becoming sick from foodborne illness.

Fifty-two percent of Americans think foodborne illness from bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, is the most important food-safety issue today, according to the foundation's fourth annual Food & Health Survey.

Although 95% say they take at least one food-safety precaution when cooking, preparing and consuming food, the number of people taking various precautions is down from 2008, including washing hands and cutting boards, cooking food to safe temperature as well as storing and handling raw meat and seafood.

"It is impossible to overstate the importance of following proper food-safety practices," said David Schmidt, chief executive officer, International Food Information Council Foundation. "Clearly, Americans understand the need for these practices, but they still can do a better job of handling food properly at home, which potentially decreases the risk of foodborne illness."

Americans' confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remained stable in 2009, but still only 49% of consumers say they are confident in the safety of food. When asked who is responsible for food safety in the U.S., Americans answered food manufacturers (72%) and the government (72%) first, followed by farmers/producers (57%), retailers (49%) and consumers/individuals (41%).

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