News

New data highlights gap between consumers’ perceptions and science about food choice

Findings confirm consumer confusion and highlight need for clarity about food production

Basel, Switzerland – Conflicting sources of information about how our food is produced make it difficult for families to make smart choices about nutrition and health, according to a new study from the ENOUGH movement, carried out in 11 countries globally, including countries in Europe. The consumer survey measured understanding and knowledge of popular food and nutrition topics including product labels, farming methods, nutritional value and environmental impacts.

Among the key findings in Europe: although food and nutrition is a frequent topic of discussion for more than 93% of the respondents – there is a lot of uncertainty of what food claims and labels mean. A majority of consumers report choosing foods labeled “all-natural” or “organic” despite not knowing what the labels mean in terms of environmental impact, animal welfare, and other metrics commonly associated with healthy food choices.

“The farm-to-table movement has revealed that we all want to know what’s in our food and where it comes from,” said UK based Livestock Sustainability Consultant Dr Jude L. Capper. “But it’s hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to food labels, farming practices, and other food production topics. Distinguishing myth from reality can make a big difference in the choices families make about nutrition, household budgets and environmental impact.”

 

Based on the results of the survey, the ENOUGH Movement is sharing the “Truth About Food,” a digital and media driven program to put accurate, fact-based information in forums to spark discussion to dispel misunderstanding. Information about the campaign can be found at https://www.enoughmovement.com/truth-about-food

Key findings from the survey and the Truth About Food program include:

Food labels are one of the most confusing topics for consumers.

  • Although many people (66 percent) buy “all natural” foods thinking they are healthier and safer, most survey respondents don’t really know what labels like “natural” and “organic” actually mean.

    • “Organic” is a type of farm management and food production that only allows natural products to be used, but it doesn’t mean “pesticide free.” For example, the use of a certain number of organic (i.e. derived from natural sources and processed lightly if at all before use[1])  pesticides is allowed in EU organic farming[2]
    • Further, an analysis done by Stanford University on more than 237 studies concluded the quality, safety and nutrition content of organic and conventionally produced foods to be equal[3].
    • When it comes to “natural”, in the UK for example it means that a product consists of natural ingredients, i.e. ingredients produced by nature, not the work of humans or interfered with by humans.[4]

Consumers are confused about modern agriculture, farming, and food production.

  • 85 percent of survey respondents believe that more organic production globally is one of the top three solutions to feeding the growing population. 

    • In fact, organic farming produces less food – about 25 percent on average globally [i]. It requires significantly more land and resources to produce the same yield as modern farming methods.
    • If Europe would try to feed itself exclusively through organic agriculture (at constant consumption), it would need an additional 28 million hectares, equal to all the remaining forests covering France, Germany, Denmark, and Great Britain combined.[5]
    • While organic methods use less fertilizer, herbicides and energy, modern farming methods resulted in less soil erosion with better yields[ii]. In fact, modern farming practices are often the most environmentally sustainable, using innovation to decrease the amount of land, feed and water to raise meat, milk and eggs. In fact, today’s conventional chicken production in Europe saves the equivalent of the CO² emission of 250 000 cars/year in Europe (2% of total). Thanks to continuous improvement less feed is needed, the carbon footprint impact is reduced by half, while producing the same quantity of meat[6].

Food waste and loss is a top concern among survey respondents.

  • 91 percent of people surveyed believe that the number one way to eliminate hunger globally is to eliminate food waste.

    • Food waste is a significant challenge we must address, but it’s only part of the problem. And we also have to look at food waste across the entire production system. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 30 to 40 percent of food is lost in production each year.[7]
    • In animals, more than 20 percent of production is lost to death and disease[8]. Best management practices and tools that help keep animals healthy are critically important to this challenge.
  • Veterinary medicines and vaccines leads to 20% resource waste reduction[9]

     

When it comes to what we eat, globally, consumers are most concerned about hormones, antibiotics, and generally food safety. With so much conflicting information, it’s no wonder. But we can put these fears to rest. Did you know?:

  • All living things contain hormones – people, plants, animals and therefore also the food we eat.
  • There are no hormones used in livestock production in Europe. Yet 73% of consumers believe there are.
  • All animals have the right to be free from pain, injury or disease. If an animal is sick, it should be treated[10].  However, regardless of whether an animal was sick and treated with an antibiotic at some time in its life or was raised antibiotic free, the food you buy is free from any harmful residue.

“The survey results underscore just how critical it is for more people to understand what goes on behind the scenes with their food,” continues Capper. “As a farmer, animal health and wellbeing is a top priority and we do everything we can to ensure that our animals are healthy.”

 

 

Notes to Editors

The Truth About Food Survey was conducted within large cities in 11 different countries – United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Peru – between August 17 and 31, 2016 among 3,337 adults aged 20 and over (at least 300 per country). This online survey was sponsored by Elanco Animal Health and conducted by Kynetec. For more information about the survey, please visit http://www.kynetec.com/.

 

About the ENOUGH Movement

It's time to solve the greatest issue of our time: building a food-secure world. In order to achieve this goal, we must have the courage to work together to tackle this complex issue from all sides. We need to produce more food using fewer resources. We must support farmers as food producers as they make sustainable choices that are right for their business. We should empower consumers to make the healthy food choices that are right for them. We must supply the high-quality and nutritious food that will nourish our children and lead to better health and development. And we must foster the kind of international infrastructure that ensure food reaches the people who need it, wherever they are.

 

The ENOUGH Movement is a global community working together to ensure everyone has access to nutritious, affordable food — today and in the coming decades. We're consumers, farmers, businesses, activists, and everyday people — passionate people who believe in implementing practical solutions to build a food-secure world.

 

About Elanco

Elanco provides comprehensive products and knowledge services to improve animal health and food-animal production in more than 70 countries around the world. We value innovation, both in scientific research and daily operations, and strive to cultivate a collaborative work environment for more than 6,500 employees worldwide. Together with our customers, we are committed to raising awareness about global food security, and celebrating and supporting the human-animal bond. Founded in 1954, Elanco is a division of Eli Lilly and Company. Our worldwide headquarters and research facilities are located in Greenfield, Indiana, U.S.A. Visit us at www.elanco.com or Elancoeurope.com and EnoughMovement.com.

 

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[2] Annex II of implementing Regulation No 354/2014 amending and correcting Regulation No 889/2008 on organic

production and labelling.