Despite the many struggles we encounter in the ag industry, there is at least one bright spot: Farmers appear to be winning the war on food misinformation. In a new study by the Alliance for Food and Farming, 20 percent fewer consumers are worried about the safety of their products when compared to 2016 survey responses.
Only one in 10 individuals are consuming adequate amounts of nutrient-dense produce daily. The AFF focus group and survey conducted research to help improve information-sharing methods to reassure and help consumers to understand produce safety.
The survey specifically focused on pesticide residues (the AFF is well-known for its pesticide-residue calculator), safety, benefits of consumption, and pathogen prevention, and included information on produce washing. The AFF also illustrated how important safety is to farmers as they feed their own families the same produce that is being sold to consumers.
AFF Executive Director Teresa Thorne said, “These positive changes are likely the result of increased outreach, information sharing and transparency regarding produce safety as well as consumers being focused on the pandemic and other dominating issues since the survey was last conducted in 2016. When consumers were asked how confident they were in specific groups protecting food safety, farmers topped the list with a 76 percent rating. According to the survey, farmers also are among the most trusted professionals providing information on pesticide use and residues on fresh fruits and vegetables. Among this list were doctors/health care providers and dietitians/nutritionists.
In a positive move, twice as many consumers believe AFF’s statements on produce safety over the “Dirty Dozen” list. The “Dirty Dozen” list is released each year and inaccurately disparages production methods of popular produce items. The AFF, by comparison, has one of the industry’s the most trusted catalogs of food on its Safe Fruits and Veggies website.
The AFF executive director responded to these results by stating, “This two-to-one margin is a significant finding and underscores the importance of the objectives and work of the Safe Fruits and Veggies campaign to reach consumers through more balanced reporting on the list release as well as direct outreach strategies to target audiences and influencers.”
Along with illustrating an increased confidence in producers, consumers also are showing increased trust in government regulations on food safety. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said that they were somewhat confident in the government’s regulation and food safety efforts, while only 9 percent said they were not confident in the government’s actions.
Although the survey showed 76 percent to 83 percent of respondents were confident in produce safety, residues are still a top consumer concern. The AFF recommends continuing to provide science-based information to battle disinformation campaigns. Continuing to share regulatory steps made by the government and connecting consumers with farmers about practices are also recommended strategies to promote produce safety.