01st December 1999


<p>Most consumers are confident that the food they buy is safe to eat - but over half of Northern Ireland homes are at risk from food poisoning because they don’t know enough about food hygiene;</p>

two thirds say they are unlikely to choose to buy GM food; they believe the Government is most to blame for food safety problems. These are the main findings in a new survey ‘Fit to Eat? – Consumer views on food safety’ from the General Consumer Council, the consumer watchdog, published today (Wednesday 1 December). The survey shows that consumers could be at risk from food poisoning because of what they do in their own kitchens. Over half (57%) did not know the correct temperature for a fridge. All fridges should be kept between 0oC and 5oC. Four out of ten (41%) did not know that it is unsafe to store raw meat or fish at the top of their fridge where it can drip on to other products. A quarter (28%) of all consumers did not know that food should be disposed of immediately after it has passed its “use-by” date. Genetically Modified Foods Consumers are not convinced about the use of genetically modified technology in food. Two-thirds said that they were either unlikely or very unlikely to buy products that they knew contained GM ingredients. The Consumer Council has called for more caution and tighter controls. Joan Whiteside, Chairman of the Council, said: “We are not opposed to genetic modification itself. However, more caution and tighter controls are required for trial crops. Also any GM crops or ingredients should be kept entirely separate throughout the food chain. Where approval is granted, food should be clearly labelled to allow consumers the right to choose.” Responsibility and trust Despite various food scares in recent years, six out of ten (58%) believe that food safety has improved during the last three years. Government is seen as having the most responsibility to ensure that food is safe. However it is also seen as the most to blame for recent food safety problems and is least trusted. Environmental health inspectors and consumer organisations are the most trusted. Finally, are people influenced by what they read and hear on the media about food scares? When asked, two thirds thought that people do pay attention to what is reported about food safety by the media. ENDS Notes to Editors 1. For further information, or to arrange interviews, contact Sam Miskelly or Alan Walker on 01232 672488. 2. The survey results were based on a survey of 1000 consumers, representative of the Northern Ireland population, carried out in autumn 1998. 3. Copies of the report are available free of charge from the General Consumer Council and will also be available shortly on the Council’s web site. ().