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FSA survey reveals 55% of consumers are concerned about sugar in food

sugary food

The Food Standards Agency has released the results of their second biannual Public Attitudes Tracker survey for 2018, and findings show that more than half of those surveyed listed the amount of sugar in food as a top concern.

The FSA surveyed consumers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in May 2018 in order to monitor any changes in consumer attitudes towards food-related issues and the FSA. In terms of food safety, the top areas of concern were food hygiene when eating out (33%), chemicals from the environment in food (30%), food additives (29%) and food poisoning (28%). In terms of wider food issues, the amount of sugar in food was the top concern (55%), followed by food waste (51%), food prices (43%) and animal welfare (42%).

According to the FSA report, concern about sugar has risen more than any other concern. Only 39% of respondents listed it as a concern in the first survey in 2010 and it has now replaced food price at the top spot, which has declined more than any other concern in the same time frame.

Why has sugar become such a concern?

Recent Government strategies to reduce sugar content in soft drinks and foods may be behind the increased awareness and concern that the general public have expressed. With reports showing nearly a third of children in England aged 2-15 are overweight or obese, the Government announced its plan for action on childhood obesity, leading to a soft drinks levy and plans for a 20% reduction in sugar in everyday products by 2020. Wide media coverage may be the cause of the rise in recognition of the amount of sugar in food and drink products.

Other findings:

The survey also asked about food safety and hygiene when eating out, and 45% of respondents stated their concern about food safety in UK restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways, while 43% were concerned about food safety in UK shops and supermarkets.

In terms of food hygiene, 82% said they were aware of the food hygiene standards in premises in which they buy or eat food. The general appearance of the premises and the display of hygiene ratings on stickers or certificates were both the most common method of assessing hygiene standards (61%). Awareness of hygiene ratings on websites has risen from 5% in 2010 to 14%, showing it is likely that researching food businesses before visiting or ordering food is slowly becoming more common.

Along with new methods of assessing the hygiene standards of food businesses, the popularity of rating stickers and certificates with the public will only reinforce the likelihood of a compulsory rating display legislation in England. Hygiene rating display for food businesses is currently only mandatory in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Regarding FSA themselves, the findings showed that 79% of respondents were aware of the FSA and of those, 69% trusted them to do their job and 72% trusted them to tell the truth.

Food poisoning and allergens:

Salmonella was the most commonly known type of food poisoning (91%), followed closely by E coli (85%). Respondents perceived raw chicken or turkey (79%), shellfish (55%), reheated take away food (46%) and eggs (37%) as most likely causes of food poisoning.

However, only 15% of respondents were aware of specific rules surrounding allergens, though 71-78% said they were confident asking a member of staff at food outlets for allergen information about the ingredients being served. This suggests that thorough staff training in the dangers of allergens and cross-contamination is crucial in order to provide a safe and satisfactory service to the public.

Read more:

For full survey results and to download the FSA report, click here.

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