A new insight into attitudes to food

The Food Standards Agency has published the first wave of an extensive new survey called Food and You, which reveals information about people’s behaviour and attitudes towards food issues such as food safety and healthy eating, and their knowledge of these issues. The survey was carried out by TNS-BMRB, the Policy Studies Institute, and the University of Westminster

This wide-ranging survey involved more than 3,000 face-to-face interviews with randomly selected adults across the UK between March and August 2010.

Food safety

The key findings on food safety are:

  • The majority of respondents reported that they follow recommended practices in relation to cleaning, cross-contamination, chilling and cooking;
  • The FSA advises that people shouldn’t wash raw meat and poultry. However many respondents said that they did – 41% said that they always wash raw meat and poultry, and 42% wash raw fish and seafood;
  • There is a lack of knowledge around safe food storage – just under half (46%) correctly stated that the temperature of a fridge should be between 0 and 5°C.
  • There is some uncertainty around the best way to tell whether food was safe to eat, with respondents commonly saying they used the smell (72%) and look (56%) of food to decide if it was safe. The recommended practice of checking the ‘use by’ date was mentioned by a quarter of people (25%).

Healthy eating

In the area of healthy eating, the survey found that the majority of respondents rated a variety of factors as important for a healthy lifestyle: 99% said eating fruit and vegetables was very or fairly important, 94% said that eating less salt was important and 92% said that limiting foods high in saturated fat was important.

About a fifth of respondents were able to identify the types and proportions of foods needed for a healthy balanced diet (based on the eatwell plate). Almost one in ten (9%) correctly stated that the maximum daily intake of salt for an adult was 6g. The survey also asked about intakes of other nutrients such as total fat, saturated fat and calories.

Andrew Wadge, FSA Chief Scientist, said: ‘Food and You was designed to help us understand what influences people’s behaviour in relation to food and to chart whether people follow Government advice. Subsequent waves will enable us to assess food behaviour changes over time, which will be extremely useful to the Agency as we think about the areas of our work that we need to prioritise.’

The survey was commissioned in 2009 before the responsibility for nutrition policy moved from the FSA to the Department of Health in England, and to the Assembly Government in Wales.

The full survey results are available on the link below. The next wave will take place in 2012.

Related links

Read the report