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Rutgers survey examines public responses to the recent spinach recall

New Brunswick, NJ -- Every year, the Food and Drug Administration issues dozens of food-related recalls, withdrawals and advisories. But few receive the attention that the advisory regarding E.coli-contaminated spinach received in September 2006. The broad scale of the resulting recall and related media attention provided a unique opportunity for researchers at the Rutgers Food Policy Institute (FPI) to study the U.S. food recall system. The results of this study were published today on FPI's web site, http://foodpolicyinstitute.org/.

To investigate the public's reactions to this incident, a nationally representative sample of 1,200 Americans were interviewed by telephone from November 8 to 29, 2006. The results of the nationwide telephone survey describe the level of consumer awareness and knowledge of the recall and foodborne illness. The results also provide insight into consumer behavior during the recall and likely future behavior in response to the recall.

"We examined both the successes and of the failures of this particular recall," said William Hallman, Director of the Food Policy Institute. "Our survey not only provides data to improve communications about future food recalls, but also enables us to explore how our systems might work in the case of intentional food contamination."

The results of the survey show that the FDA's main message to consumers warning that bagged fresh spinach had been contaminated and should not be eaten was heard by 87% of Americans. More than eight in ten (84%) of those who had heard about the recall said that they had also talked about it with others. In addition, the data clearly indicate that the majority of consumers did stop eating spinach because of the recall.

"As a result, the main public health goal of the recall was met," said Hallman, "However, fewer Americans were aware of important details related to the recall. Many we
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Contact: Michele Hujber
hujber@aesop.rutgers.edu
732-932-7000 x4204
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
5-Feb-2007


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