(June 10, 2:12 p.m.) Before the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers about eating certain types of tomatoes because of a salmonella outbreak, lingering effects of the 2006 spinach recall continued to affect consumer purchasing decisions.
More than half of American consumers have stopped eating a certain food because of a recent recall, are particularly worried about produce recalls and prefer domestic product to imported, according to results from an April 21 survey administered by Deloitte Consulting LLP.
According to findings from the survey, which polled 1,100 consumers throughout the U.S.:
- 57% of consumers say they have stopped eating a particular food temporarily or permanently as a result of a recent recall;
- 53% of consumers say they are particularly concerned about recalls of produce;
- 56% of consumers say they believe imported foods are “not at all” or only “somewhat” safe;
- 80% of consumers say they think domestically produced foods are safe; and
- 89% of consumers say they would like to see retailers sell more produce from local farms.
Ed Odron, a Stockton, Calif.-based produce marketing consultant, said he believes consumers still trust produce sold at U.S. grocery stores, despite recent outbreaks.
“If you take the big picture, people have confidence in fresh fruits and vegetables sold at supermarkets, whether it’s imported or not,” Odron said. “You’ve got a certain percentage that’s always going to be concerned, but I think overall, with all of the guidelines and standards and all the hard work growers and retailers are putting in to make sure product is safe, I think they’re confident about produce.”
Odron said the best approach retailers can take after the recent Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak is to provide consumers with updated information and promote the tomato varieties that haven’t been pinpointed — grape, cherry and on-the-vine.
“They need to support growers, so they can help move the crop and let consumer know the product is safe,” Odron said of retailers. “The tomato growers’ crop is coming on, and they’re going to have to market it.”
Because the FDA has identified which tomato varieties consumers should refrain from eating, Odron said he does not expect the recent outbreak to have the same consequences as the one linked to spinach.
It took at least a year before consumers began buying spinach again, and even now, sales aren’t where they were prior to the E. coli outbreak, Odron said.
“They have pinpointed varieties of tomatoes, and spinach is just spinach — there are no different varieties,” he said. “I think tomatoes will have a better recoup than spinach.”