Since the USDA has reported more than 160 cases involving three deadly strains of avian flu (bird flu) since December, consumers are expressing concerns about avian flu in regards to food safety, reports the NPD Group, a leading global information company. More than 50 percent of U.S. consumers say they have some level of concern about avian flu, according to NPD’s Food Safety Monitor, which has continually tracked consumer awareness and concern about food safety issues and eating intentions since 2001.
Nationwide, across 16 states, more than 8 percent of the 300 million-plus U.S. layer hen population has been affected by avian flu and died or were destroyed as a result. Avian flu was discovered in Iowa this past April and because of the spread of the disease to about 25 million, or 40 percent, of Iowa’s egg-laying hens, the governor has declared a state of emergency. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk from avian flu is generally low to most people, because the viruses do not usually infect humans.
Based on NPD’s Food Safety Monitor survey, of the 51 percent of U.S. consumers expressing some level of concern about avian flu and the health hazard it poses in the food they might eat in the next month, about 17 percent say they are extremely or very concerned, and the remaining consumers are somewhat or slightly concerned. Awareness and concern levels of food safety outbreaks can correspond with the amount of news coverage on a specific outbreak.
“When there were outbreaks in the past, we have seen concerns rise among consumers coinciding with the increased coverage,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analysts. “Food manufacturers and retailers can help allay unfounded fears about the outbreak by keeping consumers well-informed either specific to your products or overall.”