Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Confidence erodes in U.S. food supply

Confidence erodes in U.S. food supply

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The conclusions of a pioneering survey from the University of Minnesota's Food Industry Center and Louisiana State University's AgCenter should come as a surprise to no one.

The deadly salmonella outbreak tied to peanut butter made at a filthy Georgia processing plant has caused consumer confidence in the food supply to plummet. Just one in five Americans now believe the food supply is safer than it was a year ago, according to findings from the latest Continuous Consumer Food Safety/Defense Tracking Study (CFST). The study, funded by the National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the U, provides a valuable ongoing look at consumer concerns, expectations and perceptions. It's updated weekly -- unlike other surveys that swoop in occasionally on food issues.

Consumer confidence dipped last year with the outbreak of salmonella first linked to tomatoes but later tied to peppers. Confidence rebounded, the CFST found, only to nosedive to a new low with the peanut butter salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 500 and killed eight people, three of whom were Minnesotans. The findings should give the industry some food for thought. It's hard evidence that the peanut butter outbreak isn't simply the problem of one Georgia company. It has damaged the reputation of the entire food industry. Action is needed, lest the precipitous drop in peanut butter sales plague other products.

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