Pesticides are EU citizens’ top food-related health concern

A Eurobarometer about EU citizens’ general fears and fears about food shows that 63% are concernced about pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables and 62% about bird flu type viruses.

The Eurobarometer survey results show that environmental pollution (61%) and car accidents (51%) are the health concerns that the largest proportion of the population considers likely to affect them personally. Forty-nine percent are afraid of a serious illness and 42% think that their health could be damaged by the food they eat or by other consumer goods. 

As to food safety, the survey results show high levels of concern about:

  • pesticide residues in fruit, vegetables and cereals (63%), 
  • new viruses like avian influenza (62%), 
  • residues in meats like antibiotics and hormones (62%), 
  • unhygienic conditions in food handling outside the home, such as in food processing plants, shops or restaurants (62%),  
  • pollutants like mercury or dioxins (59%), 
  • genetically modified products in food or drinks (58%) and 
  • additives like colours, preservatives or flavourings used in food or drinks (57%). 

According to the survey, the Greeks, Italians and Cypriots are the biggest worriers about food contamination issues whereas the Dutch, Finns and Swedes worry the least. 

Consumer groups (32%), physicians or doctors (also 32%) and scientists (30%) are considered as the most trusted information sources regarding serious food risks, ahead of public authorities (22%) and the media (17%). The citizens trust food manufacturers (6%), farmers (6%) and supermarkets or shops (3%) the least.

A Eurobarometer survey conducted in autumn 2005 examines EU citizens' general risk perceptions and risks associated with food. It also analyses the citizens' perception of public authorities' role and actions, especially with respect to food safety, and looks at people's exposure to media coverage. 

The study was commissioned by the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

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