Nine in 10 consumers consider food safe in Ireland – FSAI 

Increased costs of doing business is cited by 76% of food businesses as the top issue affecting the industry

The aim of the research surveys was to find out consumers attitudes on food safety, sustainable food and food safety regulation (Photo by MART PRODUCTION vis Pexels)

Research by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) revealed that consumers believe food safety in Ireland has improved in the past five years, with nine in 10 people considering food in Ireland safe. The research showed that overall food safety concerns by the food industry have also reduced due to what the industry perceives as robust regulations combined with their increased knowledge of food safety procedures and controls by food inspectors. 

The FSAI national attitudinal research shows that the increased costs of doing business are cited by more than three in four (76%) of food businesses as the top issue affecting the industry and this is followed by concerns over the availability of staff (46%). The research also highlights that despite increased confidence in Irish food being safe to eat, numerous food safety issues remain for food businesses. Food allergens, food hygiene and handling, as well as food poisoning rank as the greatest food safety concerns for Irish food businesses, with over a third of food businesses listing these in their top three concerns.

The research reveals that three in five food businesses claim that their company currently seeks to produce, source, or supply food more sustainably.  Whilst one in five (21%) businesses expressed that sustainability initiatives make it harder to adhere to food safety regulations, almost eight in 10 (79%) believe that supplying food more sustainably will have no impact on adhering to food safety regulations. From a sustainability perspective, most consumers, three in four (76%) say it is important that food is produced in a sustainable way. Whilst three in four (74%) consumers would like strict deadlines imposed on manufacturers to improve the use of plastic, there was a strong understanding of the importance of packaging in terms of food safety and authenticity (67%) and preserving shelf-life (63%). 

In terms of consumer trends, the research also found that some four in 10 (45%) people prepare meals at home from scratch using fresh ingredients daily and this rises to seven in 10 (81%) doing so twice or three times per week. Some three in 10 (35%) order take away food at least weekly. Whilst almost three in five (56%) people check and adhere to use-by dates, a further two in five (40%) say that whilst they check them, they don’t always follow the product’s expiry dates.

Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State with Responsibility for Public Health, Well-being & the National Drugs Strategy, Department of Health, said: “It is a matter of pride that Ireland continues to be a leader in food safety matters. Our science and evidence-based approach to food safety maintains the integrity of, and trust in, our food chain. It is reassuring that this new research shows that consumers believe that food safety in Ireland has improved in the past five years. I applaud the FSAI for being proactive in undertaking this research – gauging industry and consumer priorities, and ensuring that our food safety systems are geared to meet our future needs.”

The FSAI undertook two comprehensive research surveys with both industry and consumers to seek attitudes on food safety, sustainable food, and food safety regulation. Overall, there is strong confidence in food safety measures among industry and consumers, with the industry also acknowledging the importance of food safety regulations in Ireland.

Dr Pamela Byrne, chief executive officer, FSAI said: “The research findings also show that whilst sustainable packaging and recycling are areas where food businesses are making significant efforts, there are barriers to more widespread adaption of sustainability in food businesses. The barriers include cost and the fact the food industry perceives that sustainability is a low priority for consumers. This perception is then affirmed by our consumer research findings that even though over three-quarters of consumers cite the importance of food produced sustainably, just two in five consumers actually make decisions about food choices based on how sustainable a food product is.” 

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