In a year when headlines featured a major ice cream brand recall, an expanding western U.S. drought impacting crops, and efforts to phase out artificial flavors and ingredients, Americans felt the top food news story of the year was the expansion of fast food breakfast menu items to more times of day along with breakfast menu innovation.

Hunter Public Relations commissioned a study to determine the nation's top food news stories of the year since 2003. For the past three years, the study has been conducted in partnership with Libran Research & Consulting, which surveyed more than 1,000 Americans between Oct. 28 to Nov. 2, 2015 and asked respondents to select their top three food stories from the 12 months ending October 2015. This year, the No. 1 story was the evolving fast food breakfast landscape, illustrated by headlines touting McDonald's new all-day breakfast menu as well as breakfast innovation at Taco Bell.

In the food news survey's 13-year history, only three other fast food stories have ever made it into the top 10. Yet, in an unusual twist, three of this year's top 10 stories revolved around the fast food industry: Domino's new emoji ordering option ranked as No. 7 and the availability of alcohol at fast food locations, such as some Starbucks and Taco Bell locations, came in at No. 9.

"The fast food industry is tapping into the 'want it now' mentality of today's consumer by offering greater availability of favorite offerings," said Grace Leong, CEO and partner of Hunter Public Relations. "Consumers who crave breakfast food in the afternoon no longer feel they should have to wait until tomorrow morning to satisfy it. They also want the ability to purchase other favorite non-traditional fast food items -- such as alcohol -- at places they already frequent regularly."

2015 is the first time since 2004 (when the passing of Julia Child was the top story) that the year's No. 1 food news story was not "issue related" (such as childhood obesity or food safety). That said, food issues were still heavily featured on this year's top 10 results. The recall of Blue Bell ice cream due to listeria issues ranked No. 2 on the survey. The company recalled all of its ice cream products in April after listeria monocytogenes were found in more than one product and in more than one plant. This year's No. 3 story was the expanding impact on the food industry of the drought in the western United States, which had ranked as last year's top story. Phasing out of artificial flavors and ingredients was considered this year's No. 5 story, with GMO Labeling ranking No. 6, and food waste as a new eco concern landing at No. 8.

Rounding out the top 10 stories are the Whole Foods Overcharging Scandal (No. 4) and Anheuser-Busch Acquiring SABMiller (No. 10).

To summarize:

• Evolving Fast Food Breakfast Landscape
• Blue Bell Issues Recall
• Western Drought Impact Expands
• Whole Foods Overcharging Scandal
• Artificial Flavors and Ingredients Phase Out
• GMO Labeling
• Domino's Emoji Ordering
• ood Waste the New Eco-Concern
• Alcohol Availability at Fast Food Locations
• Anheuser-Busch Acquires SABMiller

This year's food news study confirms that America's appetite for food news is on the rise. In fact, 45%of Americans state that food news stories are more important than other news stories -- up from 32% two years ago. Overwhelmingly, respondents feel that food safety (63%) and nutrition (47%) are the two most important food topics.