Latest Food and You survey report published for Northern Ireland

Last updated:
20 April 2017
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The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the individual Northern Ireland findings for Wave 4 of the Food and You survey.

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.

The FSA 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. 

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

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 helps to build a picture of factors which influence decisions when eating out and highlights the importance of cleanliness and hygiene when people decide where to eat out. The findings show that NI consumers report a number of practices that are in line with FSA recommendations on food safety in the home as well as some instances where they don’t follow best practice. The report also provides some comparisons between consumers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Key findings from the Food and You survey include:

  • In Northern Ireland, the survey found that consumers report a number of practices that are in line with FSA recommendations on food safety in the home: 
  • Respondents in Northern Ireland were more likely than those in England to report never washing raw chicken (56% compared with 49%).
  • More than eight out of 10 respondents in Northern Ireland reported hand washing behaviours in line with recommended practices, saying they always washed their hands before starting to prepare or cook food (85%), and immediately after handling raw meat, poultry or fish (87%).
  • 79% of respondents in Northern Ireland identified the ‘use by’ date as the best indicator of whether food is safe to eat, as per FSA recommendations. This response is similar to previous waves
  • The survey also flagged areas where consumers report not following recommended best practice:
  • When asked which methods they used to defrost meat or fish, the most common method was leaving meat or fish at room temperature (65%), which is not recommended.
  • The findings also help to build a picture of Northern Irish consumer’s eating out practices:
  • Respondents living in Northern Ireland, compared to those living in England, were more likely to agree that they recognised the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (89% compared with 82%). 
  • When shown a list of factors which might influence their decision on where to eat out, 70% of respondents in Northern Ireland reported that the cleanliness and hygiene of the establishment was important to them; overall a quarter (25%) of respondents who ate out considered this the most important factor.

The findings also highlighted cooking and shopping habits:

  • Women in Northern Ireland were more likely than men to have all the responsibility for cooking or preparing food in the home (66% compared with 27%). And the proportion of women who reported having all or most of the responsibility for food shopping was more than twice the proportion of men (68% compared with 24%). 
  • Questions on healthy eating in Northern Ireland highlighted some good news stories:
  • When asked about the recommended number of calories average men and women should eat in a day, 38% mentioned 2,500 calories for men, and 41% mentioned 2,000 calories for women, both in line with recommendations.
  • People in NI were most likely to mention restaurants (58%), fast food restaurants (52%), and takeaway outlets (47%) as places where they would like to see more information about healthy eating options.

About the survey

Food and You is an official statistic and runs on a biennial basis, it provides key data on the public’s self- reported knowledge, attitudes and behaviours in relation to food safety and food- related issues.  Fieldwork for Wave 4 was carried out from May to September 2016 and consisted of over 500 interviews across Northern Ireland among a representative sample of adults aged 16 and over.

Since Wave 1 (2010) the sample in Northern Ireland has been boosted so an individual country report can be produced. The report includes data gathered from Northern Ireland and sit alongside the combined (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) report published on the 30 March 2017. A separate report for Wales has also been published.

Read the reports

All Food and You survey reports and data can be found at