Wednesday, June 20, 2012 by Lee Mannering
New study finds misleading statements about fruits, vegetables adversely affecting consumption
Yesterday the Alliance for Food and Farming released a new report titled “Scared Fat: Are Consumers Being Scared Away from Healthy Foods?” that illustrates how negative and misleading statements about the safety of fruits and vegetables is impacting consumption and undermining public health campaigns targeted toward improving diets and reducing obesity rates in the U.S. The report features results of recent consumer research as well as an analysis of that research by scientists with expertise in nutrition, consumer behavior and farming. It found that:
- Consumers tend to be generally concerned about the safety of produce. Results show that 53 percent of the respondents listed their concerns as very high (7, 8 or 9). For low-income consumers, the level of concern was slightly higher with 58 percent expressing concern at the highest levels.
- Safety is an important factor in purchase decisions. The four most frequently cited safety concerns by consumers are: ‘Safety from contamination or foodborne illness,’ ‘The cost of the product,’ ‘Free from chemical pesticide residues,’ and ‘Whether it’s grown in the US or imported’ and ‘nutritional value.’
- At most, only about 20 percent of consumers are meeting the USDA’s ‘half your plate’ recommendation when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables. The mean percentage among all respondents reported that fruits and vegetables comprised 26.3 percent of their purchases. For low-income it was a bit higher at 31 percent.
- When consumers hear activist-generated messages about pesticide residues their concerns about the safety of fruits and vegetables are increased. After hearing some sample messages in the 10-minute survey, respondents reported a significant increase in their level of concern about produce safety.
- Negative messaging about pesticide residues and bioengineered varieties that could be used in conventional farming may increase sales of organic products among some populations, but could have an opposite effect on purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables for others. Negative messaging caused almost 10 percent of low income consumers to say they would reduce their consumption of fruits and vegetables.
These are just some of the topline highlights from the study. If you’ve ever been concerned about how alarmist messaging affects fruit and vegetable consumption, I encourage you to check out the full report (available via the Alliance for Food and Farming website).
As you know, PMA is a longstanding supporter of the Alliance and we applaud its latest research offering. Let’s hear your thoughts about the study in the Increasing Consumption Community on PMA Xchange.