If consumers were voting on the way their food is produced, half the women would be undecided while 40% of men would favor the status quo. Overall, a recent survey showed a little more than one-third of people are undecided about today’s food system while the rest of the population is almost evenly split on whether it is on the wrong track or headed in the right direction.

“This could be likened to an elected official having an approval rating of less than 40%,” says Charlie Arnot, CEO at the Center for Food Integrity (CFI), the organization that commissioned the study. “It’s a precarious position to be in when trying to win public trust.”

Overall, 39% of the people are unsure about the food system while 31% feel it is on the wrong track and 30% think it is headed in the right direction.

Women are more uncertain than men about the food system according to the survey. It shows 50% of women are unsure if the food system is on the right track while 40% of men feel it is headed in the right direction.

The data comes from CFI’s latest Consumer Trust in the Food System research. An online survey of 2,001 people was conducted last summer by Iowa-based market research analyst Gestalt, Inc. Half of the participants were the primary shopper in their household.

The 7th annual study, as in past surveys, shows the general issues of most concern for consumers are related to the economy. Given 17 issues to choose from, 74% of the people rated the U.S. economy as a top concern, followed closely by rising health care costs and unemployment. The rising cost of food, rising energy costs, personal financial situation, and the growing federal deficit also ranked highly.

On food system issues, the safety of imported food (59%) ranked as the highest concern followed closely by food safety in general. The study shows levels of concern about the U.S. food system are growing faster than other consumer worries. Concern about food safety was up 5% compared to a year ago, while concern about the economy, rising health care costs and rising energy prices were up 2% or less. 

The 2012 research is funded through the Foundation for Food Integrity, a non-profit foundation created to conduct research and provide educational outreach about today’s food system. Details of the new study were revealed at CFI’s Food Integrity Summit this week in Chicago.   

The Center for Food Integrity is a not-for-profit corporation established to build consumer trust and confidence in today’s food system. Our members, who represent every segment of the food system, are committed to providing accurate information and addressing important issues among all food system stakeholders. The Center does not lobby Nor advocate for individual food companies or brands. For more information, visit www.foodintegrity.org.