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Contact Eric Mittenthal or Jania Matthews at 202-296-6540 or media@foodinsight.org

International Food Information Council President & CEO David Schmidt Addresses FDA Hearing on Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology and Labeling

September 21, 2010

(Washington, D.C.) – International Food Information Council (IFIC) President and CEO David Schmidt today presented IFIC’s research on consumer perceptions of food technology and labeling during the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Public Hearing on the Labeling of Food Made from the AquAdvantage Salmon.  

The 2010 IFIC Food Technology Survey found that 63 percent of Americans support the FDA’s current food labeling policy and only 18 percent can think of additional information they’d like to see added to labels.  Of those looking for more information, only 3% suggested something related to biotechnology should be added to labels. 

Schmidt emphasized in remarks at the FDA hearing, “The food label is not a playground for every bit of information someone might want to know.  We rely on the FDA to ensure that the precious real estate available on a food label is reserved for important health, ingredient and nutrition information, and it is clear that a strong majority of Americans have confidence in the FDA’s labeling policy for foods produced using biotechnology.”  

The 2010 IFIC Food Technology Survey conducted by Cogent Research, Cambridge, MA,  is an extension of  IFIC’s Food Biotechnology Survey, which provides 13 years of trended consumer insights on aspects of plant and animal biotechnology and labeling.  The survey also includes insights on confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply and emerging technologies such as nanotechnology. 

A copy of David Schmidt’s full remarks follows: 

I’m Dave Schmidt, President & CEO of the International Food Information Council.  Thank you for the opportunity to share perspectives of US consumers on FDA’s food labeling policy on biotechnology. 

IFIC and the IFIC Foundation are nonprofit organizations based in Washington, DC.  Our mission is to communicate science-based information on food safety and nutrition issues to health professionals, journalists, educators and government officials.  IFIC is supported primarily by the broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries.  However, we are unique in that we don’t lobby or represent any industry, companies, products or brands. 

The IFIC Food Technology Survey was fielded in April 2010 among a statistically representative sample of 750 Americans over age 18.  The purpose of this survey is to:

  • Track awareness and perceptions of food technology
  • Reveal concerns, gaps in information, etc. related to food biotechnology and new/emerging technologies
  • Measure the extent to which consumers’ views of food technology change over time
  • Identify benefits of food biotechnology that resonate with consumers
    • This study has been conducted almost annually since 1997.
    • 69 % of consumers expressed confidence in the safety of the food supply, relatively stable since 2007.
    • When asked an open-ended question about what if anything they were concerned about when it comes to food safety, 38% cited disease or contamination, 33% handling or preparation of food and several other factors.  Only 2% cited something related to biotechnology.
    • 54% cited avoiding certain foods or ingredients, with sugars topping the list, but biotech foods or any related term were not mentioned.
    • When asked whether they could think of any information not on food labels that they would like to see added, only 18% of Americans could think of anything, and only 3% of those cited anything related to biotechnology. 

Regarding labeling, we read to consumers the following description and question:  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires special labeling when a food is produced under certain conditions: when biotechnology's use substantially changes the food’s nutritional content, like vitamins or fat, or its composition; or when a potential safety issue is identified.  Otherwise, special labeling is not required.  Would you say that you strongly support, somewhat support, neither support nor oppose, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this FDA policy?  63% of consumers indicated their support, 24% were neutral, and just 12% were opposed 

While less than one-third of consumers are aware of food products of biotechnology being on the market, they assume there are many of them.  They cite vegetables, corn, fruit, meats and tomatoes even though that is not entirely accurate. 

While the survey did not ask about salmon specifically, it did touch upon awareness and benefits of animal biotechnology.  53% of consumers said the following statement made them feel more positive:  Animal biotechnology can increase farm efficiency; that is, it can increase the amount of food produced while decreasing the amount of resources needed, such as animal feed (i.e. corn, water, etc.). 

The Executive Summary, slides, and topline data can be viewed at: http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=2010_Consumer_Perceptions_of_Food_Technology_Survey  I am also attaching a copy of the full executive summary for the record. 

The food label is not a playground for every bit of information someone might want to know.  We rely on the FDA to ensure that the precious real estate available on a food label is reserved for important health, ingredient and nutrition information, and it is clear that a strong majority of Americans have confidence in the FDA’s labeling policy for foods produced using technology. 

Thank you.

### 

For more on International Food Information Council Food Technology survey and any other questions, please contact the IFIC media team at 202-296-6540, Mittenthal@ific.org or Matthews@ific.org.  

The International Food Information Council's (IFIC's) mission is to effectively communicate science-based information on food safety and nutrition to health and nutrition professionals, educators, journalists, government officials and others providing information to consumers. IFIC is supported primarily by the broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries. IFIC and IFIC Foundation materials can be found on our Web site: www.foodinsight.org.

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