Publication Details

This article was originally published as: Williams, P, Stirling, E & Keynes, N, Food fears: a national survey on the attitudes of Australian adults about the safety and quality of food, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004, 13(1), 32-39. The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com. Copyright 2004 Blackwell Publishing.


A national telephone survey of a representative sample of 1200 Australian adults was conducted in March 2002 in order to identify the factors of greatest concern to consumers in relation to the safety and quality of food, to measure recent trends in views about hazards in the food supply, to explore beliefs about the safety of additives and to discover whether consumers use food labels to check for ingredients of concern. Forty five percent of Australians responded that they were more concerned about the safety and quality of food than they were five years previously, while only 5% were less concerned. The most common potential hazards volunteered were additives and chemical residues (28%), followed by food processing/handling/freshness (21%), food hygiene or contamination (14%), and also genetic modification (14%). More than half of the respondents believe that additives and preservatives are harmful to your health and that many foods contain high levels of pesticides. A greater proportion of consumers claimed to be conscious of checking for additives, either general or specific, on food labels than for information on the salt or sugar content of products. Food regulators, journalists, the food industry and health professionals need to work together to correct misconceptions about the risks to health posed by common food additives and pesticide residues.