December 8/New York/Marketwire -- Food safety tops the list of an annual survey asking Americans to choose the most significant food story of 2011. Even in a year when global food prices hit record highs and both restaurant menus and retail food labels got a new look, the safety of the American food supply dominated the headlines and consumers took notice. The survey was commissioned by Hunter Public Relations, a leading public relations agency specializing in the food and beverage industry.
Now in its ninth year, the Hunter PR food survey provides a look back at the top food-related stories of each year. To compile the 2011 list, the Hunter PR Food Group collaborated with industry experts, including Phil Lempert, editor of Supermarket Guru; Regina Ragone, food director of Family Circle; Elizabeth Fassberg, owner of food and nutrition consultancy Eat Food; Brad Thompson, chef and restaurant consultant; and Megan Steintrager, freelance food writer and editor. After polling 1,000 Americans, the following were named the top three food-related stories of 2011:
#1: 29 Deaths Caused by Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak: To date, 29 people have died, and another 133 were made ill from tainted cantaloupe in 2011. Traced to bacteria growing on packing equipment at Colorado's Jensen Farms, the incident is already the second largest listeria outbreak in U.S. history.
#2: First Lady Michelle Obama with USDA Unveils MyPlate, Replaces Food Pyramid: For the second year in a row, First Lady Michelle Obama was part of one of the top food stories of the year. Together with the USDA, she revealed MyPlate, the new dietary guidelines campaign, replacing the 20-year-old food pyramid.
#3: Global Food Prices Hit Record High: The number three spot finds its home at the intersection of food and finance: global food prices skyrocketed in 2011, putting pressure on the restaurant, travel and hotel industries. To avoid passing costs to consumers, companies are scrambling to renegotiate contracts, find cheaper suppliers and reconfigure menus.
The survey also revealed how consumer behavior was impacted by these stories and how these stories will affect Americans in the coming year.
-- 61% of survey respondents changed their food habits in 2011 because of news coverage.
-- The most common change in behavior was paying more attention to the foods they eat (47%).
-- 45% of Americans who were influenced by a food story decided to cook and eat more at home.
-- 29% of people surveyed now pay extra attention to the nutritional value of restaurant foods.
-- In 2012, 67% of Americans will make food-related resolutions.
-- Approximately half (47%) of these resolutions will address eating more whole grains or drinking beverages with less sugar.
-- 14% of Americans 18 and older (roughly 33 million Americans) will continue 2011's trend of incorporating less meat into their diets.
-- 21% of folks promise to pay more attention to labels on packaged foods.
From the December 19, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.