AbstractIntroduction: Motivating people to appropriately respond to a food recall can be extremely difficult.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify public perceptions of food safety and food recalls, and to determine what messages will encourage the public to perform desired responses to recalls such as checking their homes for the recalled product.
Methods: A survey research firm was hired to conduct a national, random-digit dial telephone survey of 1,101 Americans in all 50 states. Data were collected during August and September, 2008.
Results: The findings indicate that 80% of Americans believe that food recalls are becoming more frequent, though far fewer believe that the number of recalls increased between 2006 and 2007. Knowledge about the mechanisms of the food recall system is quite low (e.g., 73% believe that the Food and Drug Administration is responsible for recalls of meat and poultry). More than half of Americans (59%) report having looked in their home for recalled foods at least once, and 35% of these report having found some. When asked to rate the types of information that are most important for the media to include in stories about food recalls, the illnesses and symptoms caused by eating the recalled product and whether anyone has become ill from eating the product were rated as the most important. Similarly, respondents said that knowing how many people had been made ill by a food recall would be most likely to motivate them to check their homes for a recalled food product.
Significance: Taken together, the findings indicate that before paying attention to any of the more detailed information about food recalls, Americans want to determine whether a food recall applies to them (and the food they eat) and the severity of the problem.
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