After the wave of illnesses tied to organic sprouts in Europe earlier this year, we figured the time was right to check in again on how Americans feel about the safety of food in this country.
The latest NPR-Thomson Reuters health poll revisits questions we asked in July 2010. Back then, problems with lettuce and the safety of seafood after the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico were on people's minds.
What's changed? Well, fewer people in the U.S. are as worried about food safety now as were concerned about it a year ago. About 57 percent say they're concerned or very concerned about the safety of food now, compared with 61 percent who answered that way in the summer of 2010.
This year and last, a similar proportion of respondents said something they had eaten had made them sick in the previous three months — around 11 percent. But more of the people who reported getting sick this year said the illness was pretty serious. About 22 percent said that this year, compared to 12 percent in 2010.
Income appears to bear on how concerned people are about the safety of the food they eat. A majority — 53 percent — of respondents making less that $25,000 a year said they were very concerned about food safety, compared with 39 percent for those making more than $100,000 a year.
Meat still leads the list of foods that worry people most. Forty-four percent of those polled say it's the food that poses the greatest risk. But that's about a seven percentage point drop from last year. Concerns about fresh produce have increased. Now 30 percent of people say fruit and vegetables pose the greatest risk, compared with 23 percent who held that view last year.
The telephone poll was conducted during the first two weeks of July. The results reflect the answers of 3,017 people. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.
For the results from previous NPR-Thomson Reuters polls, click on the poll tag below.