Food and You is used to collect information about the public’s self-reported behaviours, attitudes and knowledge relating to food issues. It provides data on people’s reported food purchasing, storage, preparation, consumption and factors that may affect these. The Food and You survey is published once every two years, and individual country reports for Wales and Northern Ireland will be published in April 2017.
The Food Standards Agency uses the information provided by Food and You to inform our policies and work with consumers. It is also a rich resource for anybody interested in understanding consumer behaviour and attitudes towards food over a number of years.
Heather Hancock, Chairman of the FSA Board said: ' The FSA's biennial consumer survey, Food & You, gives us insight into changing food consumption patterns, and how consumers think and behave in relation to food. It is important research for us, providing evidence that informs our policies and how we work with consumers. It's particularly interesting to see that the public overwhelmingly believed that it was important to support domestic farmers and food producers. It is also important to note that around half of consumers had more trust in food from the UK and considered it to be higher quality than food from abroad.'
This wave, as in previous waves, consumers were asked questions about broad topics such as:
- Shopping, cooking and eating
- Food safety in the home
- Eating outside the home
- Experiences and attitudes towards food poisoning
- Attitudes and concerns about food production and the food system
- Healthy eating (Northern Ireland only)
Along with new questions on:
- Food allergy and intolerance
- Food security
- Our food futures
- Food authenticity
- Awareness and concerns about chemicals in food
The survey found that consumers report a number of practices that are in line with FSA recommendations on food safety in the home:
- More than eight out of ten respondents reported hand washing behaviours in line with recommended practices, saying they always washed their hands before starting to prepare or cook food (86%), and immediately after handling raw meat, poultry or fish (87%).
- The FSA recommends that the use by date is the best indicator of whether food is safe to eat, and this was cited as an indicator by 75% of respondents. While similar to the proportions in Wave 2 and Wave 3, this was higher than the proportion in Wave 1 (62%).
But the survey also flagged some areas where consumers report not following recommended best practice:
- Respondents were asked which methods they used to defrost meat or fish. The most common method reported was leaving meat or fish at room temperature (58%), which is not recommended.
The findings also help to build a picture of consumers’ eating out practices and highlight the importance of cleanliness and hygiene when people decide where to eat out. For example:
- When shown a list of factors which might influence their decision on where to eat out, 72% of respondents reported that the cleanliness and hygiene of the establishment was important to them; overall a third (30%) of respondents who ate out considered this the most important factor.
New questions introduced in this wave provide some important insights to inform the Food Standards Agency’s future work including:
- Questions on allergy and intolerance which show that of those who reported an adverse reaction or avoided certain foods, the most common foods that people reported having an adverse reaction to were cows’ milk and cows’ milk products (22%), cereals containing gluten (13%) and molluscs e.g. mussels, oysters (11%).
Data that was collected to monitor broad consumer trends in relation to food remained largely consistent with previous waves of the survey.