Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 18, 2000

Survey shows people trust prepared foods sold in grocery stores

The string of restaurant health violations in Toronto may have affected consumer trust of eating establishments, but people still feel confident about the safety of prepared foods sold in grocery stores, according to a survey by a University of Guelph professor.

Prof. John Walsh, director of the School of Hotel and Food Administration, conducted a random and informal survey about people's perceptions of prepared food sold in grocery stores. Of the 200 people surveyed, about 75 per cent of respondents said they found food safety to be "satisfactory" at their grocery stores, while about 20 per cent rated safety as "excellent."

"People feel comfortable with the level of food safety in grocery stores," Walsh said, referring to the semi- or fully prepared foods that many grocery stores sell, such as barbecued spareribs, chicken, deli sandwiches and salads. "There is a general perception that because it is in front of them and they can see it, it is safe. But safety procedures and standards are different than those in the food-service industry. What you see is not necessarily what you get."

For one, the regulations and standards that apply to restaurants, such as mandatory food- safety training for employees, don't always apply to grocery stores. Walsh said the issue will continue to grow in importance as prepared foods in grocery stores become more and more popular. "This is the single biggest trend in the food industry today."

Not only are demographics changing and more and more people including semi- and fully prepared foods in their meals, but food science and technology are also booming in the prepared-food industry, Walsh said. New products and technology, such as plastic wrap that changes colour when bacteria levels rise, are making it easier and safer to produce packaged foods. "But a lot of people are involved in bringing a product to the table, so safety steps must be followed along the way," he said. "The responsibility is not just with the final distributor."

The survey was conducted in Guelph, Cambridge, Elora, Fergus, Rockwood and Eden Mills and included about 100 samplings. "It was very exploratory research, just raw data," Walsh said, "but it is a very important indicator about how people feel about food safety."

Contact: Prof. John Walsh School of Hotel and Food Administration (519) 824-4120, Ext. 6118

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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