February 25/Fitness & Wellness Business Week -- A new national survey conducted by the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health finds that the vast majority (93%) of Americans have heard or read about the recent ongoing recall of peanut products. Among those who are aware of the recall, about six in 10 (61%) say they have taken one or more precautions to reduce their risk of getting sick from contaminated peanut products. Specifically, about one in four say they have checked ingredient lists on foods in the grocery store to make sure they know which products contain peanuts (27%), thrown away foods in their home that they think might be on the recall list (25%), stopped ordering foods containing peanuts in restaurants (22%) and stopped eating those foods they heard were in the recall (28%), while 15% say they have stopped eating all foods containing peanuts.
The poll also finds that among those who are aware of the recall, one in four (25%) mistakenly believe that major national brands of peanut butter are involved in the recall. Some 70% correctly identify peanut butter crackers as being involved. However, less than half are aware that several other products containing peanuts have been recalled, including some in each of the following food categories: snack bars (49%); cakes, brownies and cookies (45%); pet treats (43%); candy (39%); pre-packaged meals (36%); ice cream (27%); and jars or cans of dry-roasted peanuts (23%).
The survey was conducted between February 4-8, 2009, during the peanut product recall that began on January 12, 2009.
"There's a striking level of awareness of this recall, and many people have taken action. However, they're not aware of the range of products involved in the recall," said Robert J. Blendon, professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. "People should check the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recall list routinely, since the number of products is still growing."
The recall list is online at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm.
Some 14% of those who were aware of the recall report having checked the Food and Drug Administration's online list of foods involved, and 19% have looked for more information about the recall.
About three-fourths (77%) of those who are aware of the recall do know that it involves contamination by salmonella.
The poll finds low levels of public confidence in groups involved in food production and inspection. More than six in 10 Americans express only some or very little confidence in food manufacturers (67%) and the government inspections system (62%) to keep food safe. In addition, a slight majority (52%) say they have only some or very little confidence in grocery stores to keep food safe.
"The results suggest that all those involved in the food safety system need to act quickly to fix the problems and increase public confidence," said Blendon.
From the February 16, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition