By Adam Friedlander, MS, CFS, Manager, Food Safety and Technical Services, FMI, and Allison Febrey, Manager, Research and Insights, FMI
The food industry works hard to protect public health and ensure the safety of the food supply is maintained from the farm to manufacturing sites to retail and to the family dinner table. For decades, the food industry has invested tremendous resources in food safety, and consumers expect safe food. According to FMI’s 2021 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends Report, eight out of 10 shoppers have confidence in the safety of the food at their grocery store. While consumers believe that food safety is a collective responsibility, they view themselves as playing an important role in keeping food safe.
To maintain high consumer confidence, retailers engage with their customers by sharing food safety information throughout the year to remind them to keep the Core Four Practices for Food Safety—Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill—top-of-mind at home. FMI’s research team supports the efforts of FMI members by providing insight into the food safety habits of shoppers in their home kitchens through many of the FMI insight reports. Understanding consumer food safety behaviors can help inform the food industry of opportunities to increase adoption of safe food handling practices in the home and where to focus their food safety education efforts to help consumers prepare and serve safe, healthy meals.
With many more meals being prepared at home, consumers engage in a wide variety of food safety measures in their own kitchens, starting with washing cutting boards and food contact surfaces, washing hands, using a food thermometer, and separating raw animal proteins and raw eggs from ready-to-eat foods.
Two recent reports captured consumer insight on home food safety practices, identifying specific areas of opportunity for continued guidance and messaging. FMI’s third annual Power of Seafood explores attitudes and behaviors toward the rapidly growing seafood category. FMI’s Power of Produce identifies the biggest trends in consumer purchasing and consumption of fruit and vegetables from planning the purchase, channel choice and preparation all the way through recommendations to improve shopping in the produce department. Below are key consumer food safety-specific features from these reports:
- 70% of seafood shoppers report always washing their hands before and after handling raw meat, seafood, poultry or eggs (Power of Seafood, p. 53).
- 66% of shoppers report always washing their hands before preparing a meal (Power of Produce, p. 21).
- 22% of seafood shoppers say they always use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked food such as meat, seafood or poultry (Power of Seafood, p. 53).
- 71% of shoppers report always washing their cutting boards and kitchen surfaces before preparing meals (Power of Produce, p. 21).
- 67% of shoppers report that they always keep cooked foods away from surfaces contaminated by raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs (Power of Produce, p. 21).
FMI assists the food industry in helping consumers safely prepare food at home through the support of the Partnership for Food Safety Education to promote effective food safety messaging for consumers. Whether directly addressing the importance of handwashing, reducing cross-contamination, utilizing a food thermometer or properly refrigerating leftovers, the food industry plays an important role in strengthening our nation’s food safety culture and preventing foodborne illnesses.
The Partnership for Food Safety Education offers many resources to support the food industry’s efforts to help consumers prepare and serve healthy, safe meals. To learn more about these tools and safe food practices, please visit https://www.fightbac.org/.