Results of a recent Harris Poll of 2,236 adults show that the majority of the U.S. adults in the survey are concerned about food recalls, and believe there should be more government oversight in regard to food safety.

According to the survey, 86 percent , including 58 percent who are somewhat concerned and 28 percent who are seriously concerned about food recalls, and 73 percent believe there should be more government oversight in regard to food safety.  

A news release from Harris noted that food recall concerns - and calls for increased government oversight where the food supply is concerned - are stronger among some subsets of Americans than others. For example:

Women are more likely than men to indicate being both seriously (31 percent women, 25 percent men) and somewhat (61 percent and 55 percent, respectively) concerned; they are also more likely than their male counterparts to believe there should be more government oversight in regard to food safety (77 percent and 69 percent, respectively).

Surprisingly, Americans in low-income households - specifically households with an annual income under $35,000 - are more likely than those in higher earning households to describe food recalls as a serious concern (36 percent in households earning  less than $35k, 21 percent in households earning $35k-$49,999, 26 percent in $50k+ households).

According to the survey results, Democrats (32 percent) are more likely than Republicans (25 percent) to characterize food recalls as a serious concern. The call for more government oversight rings most loudly from the Democrats' camp (86 percent) and least so from Republicans (60 percent), with Independents in the middle (70 percent).

Impact on Companies
Health or safety related food recalls can have enormous implications for a company's reputation and patronage - but not a permanent one, at least for a majority of Americans. Over half of U.S. adults (55 percent) indicate that if a brand they usually purchase is involved with a recall or safety concern issue, they'll temporarily switch to another brand and then return to the recalled brand once it's safe.

On the other hand, 16 percent say they'll purchase another brand and never purchase the recalled brand again, and an additional 17 percent would thereafter avoid any brands made by the recalled product's manufacturer.

More Recalls or Less?
A majority of those surveyed believe there have been more recalls in recent years than previously. They were not asked whether that could be due to more specific tests to identify pathogens, or generally reporting mechanisms.

When those who think there have been more food recalls lately are asked who they hold most responsible for this increase, the highest percentage by a dramatic margin place the blame on those responsible for packaging and/or processing food (50 percent), though the federal government (19 percent) and those responsible for growing and/or raising food (16 percent) don't escape this blame.

If the survey is indicative of the general public, the agriculture industry would be well-served to analyze the results and dig deeper into the cause, whether it’s due to more media coverage, more efficacious tests or if there are actually more food recalls than in the past.

To view the full findings, or to see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.