AbstractThis report presents the data from a national telephone survey on American’s awareness and knowledge of food recalls, as well as their attitudes and behavioral responses to food recalls. A random sample of American adults in all 50 states was interviewed in August and September of 2008. The following are among the key findings of the study: Most Americans view food recalls as important and as saving lives. Most report paying attention to recalls and telling others about them. Many believe that recalls are relevant to others and not to themselves. While most Americans believe that the number of food recalls is growing, they have a poor grasp of the actual number of recalls that occurred in the year prior to the survey. Misconceptions about the food recall process and the role of government in it are widespread. Overall, only about six-in-ten Americans report having ever looked for recalled food in their homes; and far fewer (10%) say they have ever found a recalled food product. More than one quarter of Americans say they have discarded a food product after hearing about a food recall. More than one-in-ten Americans report having eaten a food they thought had been recalled. Nearly three quarters of Americans say they would want to receive personalized information about recalls on their receipt at the grocery store, and more than six-in-ten said they would want to receive such information through a letter or an email. Nearly four-in-ten Americans say they would be interested in signing up for email alerts from the government regarding food recalls, a service that is already available but used by only 6%. Consumers appear to highly value information that allows them to judge the potential likelihood and severity of consequences related to a food recall to determine whether it is in their interests to pay attention to the recall or to take actions in response. To be effective, food recalls must generate sufficient attention and motivation among consumers that they take appropriate protective actions. The results of this national survey suggest that for many Americans, this simply has not happened. Most Americans view recalls as important, but not particularly relevant to themselves. As a result, despite considerable awareness of recent recalls, few say they have looked for recalled products, and many appear to maintain an illusion of invulnerability.
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