Food safety worries alter buying habits

July 18, 2008 9:09:09 AM PDT
Americans are demanding strict new rules to ensure the produce we eat is safe. The government has now given tomatoes the all-clear after a nationwide salmonella outbreak, but a poll shows the damage is done.

The tomato market has certainly taken a hit in the past weeks, but it is bouncing back. A poll from the AP says the salmonella tomato scare has affected confidence in all produce.

Nearly half the people surveyed are worried and avoiding some produce they would normally buy. The origin of the salmonella outbreak is still unknown. That is renewing calls for a produce tracing system where labels would be able to track produce through layers of processors, packers, shippers and farmers.

The poll found 80 percent of Americans would support new federal standards for fresh produce - similar to what is in place for meat and poultry. Local produce distributors are all for bringing back consumer confidence.

"It was pretty crazy, nobody was buying any tomatoes and things really slowed down with the tomatoes once it got all over the news - everything just came to a standstill. And then about two weeks afterword, they slowly started buying tomatoes. It still hasn't fully come back to its full potential. But it should come back with California tomatoes and hopefully it will come around again real soon" said Charles Tarpley, produce distributor.

The concerns remain - the poll showed 46 percent of people say they were worried they might get sick from eating contaminated foods and have avoided foods because of warnings, 29 percent have thrown out food earlier than usual and 14 percent have returned food to the store.

The poll also found that women are actually more concerned about food safety than men. But both genders do equally see the need for more federal oversight


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