Majority of the population trusts state structures in consumer health protection
Whether it's salmonella or antimicrobial resistance, residues of plant protection products or microplastics in food - what health risks are consumers aware of? What concerns them and how is the perception of risks changing? Answers to these questions are given in the BfR Consumer Monitor, a regular population survey conducted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). In the latest issue, it can be seen that people are becoming more and more aware of glyphosate, the active substance used in certain plant protection products, with three quarters of the population already having heard of it. Despite this, food in Germany is still regarded as safe by over 80 percent of respondents, and more than half trust the state authorities that they protect the health of consumers. It was determined for the first time in this issue how great the interest in consumer health topics is. "More than two thirds of the population are interested in consumer health protection. That makes our mandate of providing people with comprehensive information on actual and perceived risks all the more important," says BfR President, Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "The goal is for consumers to remain able to decide what to do by themselves and maintain their competence in assessing risks".
BfR Consumer Monitor 02/2018
The BfR Consumer Monitor is an important instrument of consumer health protection. As a representative consumer survey, it gives an insight every six months as to how the German-speaking population perceives health risks.To do so, roughly 1,000 persons living in private households in Germany aged at least 14 years are interviewed per telephone on behalf of the BfR.
Respondents still perceive smoking, climate and environmental pollution as well as a wrong or unhealthy diet as the greatest health risks. In focus once again, and moving up into fourth place in the list of the greatest health risks, are the shortcomings of the health system. These include a perceived shortage of medical staff, the care crisis and the difficult situation in hospitals. Alcohol and unhealthy or contaminated foods are seen as further risks.
When questions are asked about selected topics, salmonella, genetically modified foods, antimicrobial resistance and plant protection product residues head the list of subjects of which people are most aware. These are also the four topics that cause concern among the most respondents. Compared to the previous year, the topics of aluminium, microplastics and glyphosate in food are much better known. Almost half of the population is concerned about glyphosate, with a similar percentage of people concerned about microplastics. By way of comparison, only a good third of respondents find aluminium in food a cause for concern.
Toys and cosmetics are estimated to be safe by a larger percentage of consumers compared to the previous survey. There has been a slight decrease in the feeling of safety where textiles are concerned.
The BfR Consumer Monitor is dedicated on the one hand to topics which receive a lot of public attention. On the other hand though, it also analyses issues which have been less the focus of attention but which are also relevant, such as Campylobacter and pyrrolizidine alkaloids in food, or new methods of “genome editing” for the targeted modification of genetic makeup. As was the case last year, these topics are hardly visible in public perception and are consequently not regarded as being of particular concern. Food hygiene at home also plays only a minor role in the consciousness of the consumer.
To what extent public perception deviates from the scientific estimation of health risks is of particular interest for the work of the BfR. Through follow-up studies and specific communicative measures on such topics as kitchen hygiene, the BfR aims to counteract false estimations and misunderstandings.
About the BfR
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.
The BfR is 15 years old. To mark the occasion, the institute has published an anniversary brochure which can be downloaded free of charge at http://www.bfr.bund.de/en/publication/brochures-61045.html.
This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.