On the right tracker? It would appear not…

The latest Food Standards Agency (FSA) Public Attitudes Tracker Survey results have just been published.

The biannual survey monitors changes in consumer attitudes to food-related issues, with participants based in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Now that you know the background, I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat awaiting the latest revelations from the great British public.

So I shall put you out of your misery and, while detailing the ‘top safety issues of concern’ for those surveyed, will reveal a couple of worrying concerns of my own.

Food hygiene when eating out (35%) topped the list of safety concerns, with food poisoning coming in at 29% and additives at 28%.

Yet while food hygiene and food poisoning are undeniably a potential safety concern, how so food additives?

The only reason food additives can be used at all is because they have been rigorously tested before being declared safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

I delved into the survey’s smallprint and discovered that ‘concern’ describes ‘reported concern’. ‘Total concern’ describes ‘spontaneous plus prompted responses’. Respondents are first asked to state spontaneously which food issues they are concerned about, and then asked to select food issues of concern from prompted lists.

Now I’m not sure how food additives concerns fit into the above, but my observations are as follows:

If the FSA is listing additives as a safety concern, which is then being used to prompt respondents, it is misleading them and no doubt compounding a few ill-informed attitudes and beliefs.

Conversely, if consumers are saying they are concerned about the safety of food additives, surely the FSA should be taking the opportunity to reassure them and dispel the popular misconception that ‘e-numbers are bad’ when, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.


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