May 10/New York/Bloomberg Businessweek-- More Americans want additional information on nutrition labels than two years ago while confidence in the safety of U.S. food is unchanged, according to a survey by an industry-backed research group.

Some 24% of respondents said they would prefer more information on labels, including data on nutrition, ingredients and potential allergens and their side effects. That is up from 18% in the International Food Information Council’s previous survey of consumer perceptions of food technology in 2010; 69% were very or somewhat confident in U.S. food safety, the same as two years ago.

 “We see people wanting to know more about nutrition, and we saw a big jump in people who want to know more about food safety,” said Lindsey Loving, a senior director for the Washington-based group. Still, even when well-publicized food- safety scares occur, “the average consumer is still confident in the food supply,” she said.

A public backlash earlier this year over ammonia-treated beef scraps that consumer activists dubbed “pink slime” led to lost business for Beef Products Inc. and caused demand for ground beef to drop in March to the lowest level for that month in a decade. Transglutaminase, an enzyme that binds together different cuts of meat called “meat glue,” and insect extracts used for Starbucks Corp. food coloring have also been targeted by consumer campaigns.

That, combined with the first U.S. mad-cow disease case since 2006, has led consumer groups to call for more regulation of the food supply. The percentage of label supporters in the survey who wanted more information on food safety jumped to 18% in 2012 from 2% in 2010, indicating a subset of the population that pays close attention to food is more demanding about its safety, Loving said.

The survey of 750 consumers over the age of 18 was conducted between March 7 and 19 by Cogent Research of Cambridge, Mass., just as the first major media reports on pink slime were published. The poll, which has been conducted most years since 1997 to track consumer attitudes toward food, has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points, the council said.

Almost three-quarters of those surveyed said they are aware of plant biotechnology, such as genetically modified seeds made by Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co. About 38% have favorable opinions of biotech, while 26% are neutral, 20% are unfavorable and 17% say they do not know enough about the topic. In 2010, 32% had a favorable view.

On sustainability, 56% of respondents said they have heard or read something about sustainability in food production, up from 50% two years ago and 41% in 2008.

 From the May 10, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily News