The cost of food weighs more heavily on Europeans today than a few years ago, becoming the main factor influencing food purchases, followed by taste. Almost half consider food safety to be equally important and 41% of EU citizens take it for granted that the food they buy is safe.
These findings come from the 2022 Eurobarometer on food security in the EU, the fourth such survey since 2005. Based on interviews with 27,000 people across the EU, it presents an evolving picture of how Europeans choose foods, their food safety awareness and concerns, and whom they trust for information on food safety issues.
Global problems mark the spirits
EFSA Executive Director Bernhard Url said: “A lot has happened since our last survey in 2019, including a pandemic and the outbreak of war in Europe. Such events have dramatic consequences and, unsurprisingly, we see that for many Europeans the rising cost of living is affecting their food choices more than before.
“On the other hand, food safety remains important to many EU citizens and it is encouraging to see that almost half of them care about healthy eating as much as about food risks.”
EU food security at 20 – facing the risks of tomorrow
This latest snapshot of citizens’ views comes as the EU food safety system, EFSA and food safety bodies in several member states turn 20 years old. They were created in 2002 to provide food safety in Europe with a strengthened scientific basis, harmonized rules and to stimulate cooperation across the continent.
Mr. Url said: “This step is an achievement for many organisations, scientific experts and other stakeholders in our system. Encouragingly, two-thirds of European citizens agree that the EU and Member States are working together, not in isolation, to make this a reality.
“The increasing pace of innovation and the technical complexity of how we produce, buy and consume our food are further drivers for close cooperation between countries and between scientific disciplines.
“Eurobarometer 2022 also shows that a majority of our citizens recognize that the state of the environment, animals and plants has an impact on human health. This is encouraging, as we move towards sustainable food systems and “One Health” risk assessment.”
Trust in science holds firm
Seven out of 10 Europeans recognize the role of scientists in ensuring the safety of our food and 8 out of 10 trust them with information on food safety. Similarly, trust in national and European institutions is high at around two-thirds.
Barbara Gallani, Head of Communications and Partnerships at EFSA, said: “These findings are invaluable in our day-to-day work as well as in our long-term strategic planning.
“We have developed tailor-made summaries and data tools for our Member State partners so that they can use the Eurobarometer results to support their own food safety information and public awareness efforts.”
Selection of other results
- More than a third of Europeans have a very high (21%) or high (17%) level of awareness of topics related to food safety, i.e. they have heard of at least 10 of the 15 subjects studied.
- They are most likely to have heard of additives in food or drink (70%), pesticide residues in food (65%), residues of antibiotics, hormones or steroids in meat (63%) or diseases found in animals (60%).
- Pesticide residues in food (40%) and residues of antibiotics, hormones or steroids in meat (39%) top the list of food safety concerns among Europeans. Fewer people were concerned with plant diseases (11%), the use of new biotechnologies in food production (8%) and nanotechnologies applied to food production (5%).
- 6 in 10 (61%) list television, either on a television or via the internet, as one of their main sources of information on food risks, followed by family, friends, neighbors or colleagues (44% ) and internet search engines (37%), with significant differences between generations.
- More than 8 in 10 respondents trust doctors (89%), academic/public scientists (82%) and consumer organizations (82%) for information on food risks.
- A minority of Europeans would not change their behavior in the event of a food crisis (21%). Of these, the top reasons cited already included preparing food in the recommended way (45%) and the belief that all foods carry some risk and that it is impossible to avoid them all (25%).