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Less concern over salt, fat and food safety, says UK survey

By staff reporter , 25-Feb-2008

The latest consumer survey conducted by the UK's Food Standards Agency points to a drop in concern about salt and fat levels in foods, which the agency says reinforces the need for awareness-raising initiatives.

The survey was conducted between August and October 2007 and involved 1093 adults in England. It was the eighth such survey since 2000.

 

 

 

The results showed that fat, sugar and salt still ranked as the main areas of concern, but consumers were marginally less worried about the healthy profile of their food than the previous year.

 

 

 

Forty-one per cent of respondents said they were worries about fat in food, compared to 46 per cent in 2006; concern over saturated fat was down from 45 per cent to 38 per cent; salt from 55 per cent to 51 per cent; and sugar from 44 per cent to 40 per cent.

 

 

 

Andrew Wadge, the FSA's chief scientist, said: "What appears to be a drop in concern about how much fat and salt there is in our food shows how critical it is that the agency continues to raise awareness around a healthy diet and provides clear information and advice, backed up by scientific evidence".

 

 

 

The FSA has recently conducted a high profile consumer-oriented campaign on salt consumption, and is presently considering what kind of awareness activities to employ as part of its programme to reduce saturated fat intake.

 

 

 

Whatever form it takes, the saturated fat awareness campaign is expected to start towards the end of 2008/beginning of 2090.

 

 

 

The food industry has also been working to reduce levels of negative nutrients in products, both in collaboration with the FSA and independently of the government body.

 

 

 

The UK's Food and Drink Federation says that the industry introduced its health and wellbeing action plan in 2004, the recipes for at least £15bn worth of food have been tweaked to have less fat, sugar and salt.

 

 

 

A further £11.5bn worth of products have been launched in 'lower in' versions, according to the FDF.

 

 

 

Food safety

 

 

 

The survey also showed that consumers were less concerned about food safety issues than at any time since the survey was first conducted in 2000.

 

 

 

In particular, 36 per cent said they were worried about food additives, compared to 39 per cent in 2006 - despite the whirlwind of publicity around the Southampton study linking some additives to aggravated hyperactivity in children.

 

 

 

Thirty-six per cent of people asked said they were worried about food poisoning, down from 41 per cent the year before; and concern over GM foods fell from 26 to 21 per cent.

 

 

 

Wadge was cautious in his interpretation of these findings, seeing them from two perspectives.

 

 

 

"A dip in concern over many food safety issues could point to growing consumer confidence in the regulation of the food industry," he said. Indeed trust in the FSA was seen to up 61 per cent, up from just 43 per cent in 2001, when the question was asked first.

 

 

 

"Alternatively, it might indicate a decreasing awareness of the importance of food hygiene," he added.

 

 

 

The FSA will be aiming to raise awareness over food hygiene issues during Food Safety Week in June.