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Exclusive: U.S. shoppers wary about China food safety: survey
LOS ANGELES |
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As the United States implements a new law aimed at strengthening oversight of the food consumers eat, shoppers worry about the safety of products imported from China, Mexico and Africa.
China fared the worst when it came to shoppers' views about food safety oversight, according to an online survey of 571 people conducted for Reuters by SupermarketGuru.com, a website that spots trends and helps shoppers make food buying decisions.
When asked to choose the two countries they perceived as having the least food safety oversight, survey participants picked China 81 percent of the time and Mexico 51 percent of the time.
According to respondents, other areas of concern included Africa (48 percent) and South America (27 percent). They picked the United States 11 percent of the time.
Canada was chosen 3 percent of the time, while Australia, France, Britain and New Zealand each were chosen in 2 percent of instances.
When given the choice to pick two regions where they avoid buying food due to safety concerns, three-quarters of respondents chose China. That compared with 42 percent for Africa, 41 percent for Mexico and 24 percent for South America.
Just under half of respondents -- 49 percent -- said they believed organic and kosher foods are safer than most.
Food costs are on the rise due to higher commodity prices, adding pressure to grocers who already operate with very thin margins. Supermarket operators like Kroger Co have said they plan to pass those higher food costs on to shoppers.
Phil Lempert, SupermarketGuru.com's editor, does not expect higher food prices to prompt shoppers to buy products from countries perceived as having lax food safety.
"Safety is No. 1," said Lempert.
Chicken and other poultry, along with lettuce, were seen as the least-safe foods to eat.
Seventy-nine percent of respondents said the United States needs more government oversight and more stringent policies to strengthen the food safety system.
Exactly half said they were most concerned about pesticides and hormones in food production, just edging out the 49 percent who were most concerned about bacteria from food handling.
President Barack Obama earlier this month signed the new U.S. food safety legislation, which allows the Food and Drug Administration to increase inspections of food producers and gives it more enforcement authority.
The law, which follows a series of widespread outbreaks of foodborne illness and food product recalls, gives the FDA power to mandate recalls of contaminated food, requires most producers to maintain a safety plan, and gives the agency more authority over food imports.
Some Republicans in Congress who will oversee the FDA have questioned the necessity and cost of the overhaul -- estimated at $1.4 billion over five years -- and warned that the administration could face a tough fight to fund provisions designed to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks.
(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Matthew Lewis)
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