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Even before tomato warning, many Americans lacked confidence in the food safety system
Date:6/12/2008

to be worried than men (33%).

"Even before the FDA issued the recent warning about fresh tomatoes contaminated with salmonella, a large number of Americans knew about the threat of salmonella to food safety and were specifically worried about it," said Blendon. "This indicates that the recent outbreak is likely to be of serious concern to many people."

In addition, large numbers reported knowing about other specific types of food-borne illness: 62% said they knew what E. coli was, 58% mad cow, and 47% botulism. Almost four in ten (37%) were worried that they or a family member might become ill from E. coli in the next year, 27% about mad cow disease, and 20% about botulism. There was some confusion over the role that cooking food might play in protecting people from becoming sick from food-borne illnesses. While majorities knew that cooking food thoroughly would protect against salmonella (68%) and E. coli (61%), 41% of respondents incorrectly believed that cooking could protect against botulism, and a third that cooking could protect against mad cow (32%).

Some aspects of the food system are perceived by Americans to be less safe than others. When asked about some of the places where they might get their food, strong majorities of Americans considered food to be at least somewhat risky if it came from street vendors and pushcarts (88%), buffet restaurants (76%), salad bars (74%) or fast food restaurants (72%), while food from school cafeterias (48%), home kitchens (44%), or farmer's markets (44%) were considered risky by the lowest number of Americans. As for particular foods that might pose safety concerns, those perceived by the largest numbers to be at least somewhat risky were raw fish or sushi (82%) and hamburgers cooked rare or medium rare (80%), while those perceived by the lowest numbers to be risky were raw fruits and vegetables (36%), bean or alfalfa sprouts (36%), milk and cheese products (35%), and infant formula (35%).


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Contact: Robin Herman
rherman@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-4752
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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