Today, there is more of a need than ever to understand consumers’ perceptions of nutrition and food safety issues. For the first time, The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will be written for an overweight and obese American population and advocate a “total diet” approach for improving health. There are also ongoing initiatives to address childhood obesity from the White House to Main Street, including First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative. Landmark healthcare legislation was signed into law requiring calorie counts at restaurant chains and on vending machines. And, there is pending food safety legislation before the U.S. Congress.
The 2010 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health, commissioned by the International Food Information Council Foundation, is the fifth annual national quantitative study designed to gain insights from consumers on important food safety, nutrition, and health-related topics.
While the 2010 Food and Health Survey suggests that many different messages about the importance of a healthful lifestyle are being heard, the Survey also shows disconnects in consumers’ awareness of the relationship between diet, physical activity, and calories.
Most Americans (70 percent) say they are concerned about their weight status, and an overwhelming majority (77 percent) is trying to lose or maintain their weight. When asked what actions they are taking, most Americans say they are changing the amount of food they eat (69 percent); changing the type of foods they eat (63 percent); and engaging in physical activity (60 percent). Further, 65 percent of Americans report weight loss as a top driver for improving the healthfulness of their diet; 16 percent report improving their diet to maintain weight. Similarly, losing or maintaining weight is the main motivator (35 percent) for Americans who are physically active, yet a large majority of people (77 percent) are not meeting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines.
The Balancing Act of Diet and Physical Activity
Americans continue to show a lack of understanding of “calories in” and “calories out” and their relationship to weight. For example, when it comes to calories consumed versus calories burned, most Americans (58 percent) do not make an effort to balance the two. In addition, of those who say they are trying to lose or maintain weight, only 19 percent say they are keeping track of calories, which can be a tool for those trying to manage weight. The Food & Health Survey continues to find that few Americans (12 percent) can accurately estimate the number of calories they should consume in a day. Furthermore, many Americans do not know how many calories they burn in a day (43 percent) or offer inaccurate estimates (35 percent say 1000 calories or less).
Additional Key Findings from the International Food Information Council Foundation 2010 Food & Health Survey include:
- Awareness and Use of Federal Programs such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid
- Americans have at least heard of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (71 percent, consistent with findings from 2009).
- Most have heard of MyPyramid (85 percent), but the majority of Americans (71 percent) have not used it.
- Consumer Perceptions of Food Components included in the Dietary Guidelines
- More than half of Americans (53 percent) are concerned with the amount of sodium in their diet and more are likely to look for sodium content on the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP).
- Americans seem to be less focused on dietary fat than in previous years, with significant decreases in the number who report looking for total fat on the NFP.
- Americans embracing dietary recommendations and state that they are trying to consume more fiber (72 percent) and whole grains (73 percent).
- Food Safety Practices and Confidence in the Safety of the U.S. Food Supply
- When asked, “to what extent, if at all, are you confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply,” 47 percent of Americans reported that they are very confident or somewhat confident, similar to previous years.
- Americans still have room for improvement when it comes to practicing good food safety at home including:
- 72 percent (vs. 79 percent in 2008) properly store leftovers within two hours of serving.
- 78 percent (vs. 92 percent in 2008) wash cutting boards with soap and water or bleach.
- 89 percent (vs. 92 percent in 2008) wash their hands with soap and water regularly when handling food.
- The Impact of the Economy on Food and Beverage Purchases
- Price continues to have a great impact on consumers’ food and beverage purchasing decisions (73 percent in 2010 vs. 64 percent in 2006).
- As in previous years, taste remains the biggest influence on purchasing decisions (86 percent) followed by price (73 percent), healthfulness (58 percent) and convenience (55 percent).
- Consumer Food Shopping Preferences
- The majority of Americans (88 percent) conduct most of their food shopping at a Supermarket/grocery store compared to a warehouse shopping club (4 percent) or a discount retailer (4 percent).
- Most Americans are either somewhat or extremely satisfied with the healthfulness of products offered at their supermarket (73 percent).
The 2010 Food & Health Survey also covers consumer attitudes on protein, use of the Nutrition Facts Panel and other forms of food and beverage labeling, as well as low-calorie sweeteners, caffeine, and food additives.
The Foundation’s 2010 Food & Health Survey captured the thoughts, perceptions, and actions of 1,024 American adults over a two and a half-week period in April and May of 2010.
For a copy of the 2010 Food & Health Survey Executive Summary please click here.