Report: Americans Concerned About Safety of Food, Products, Many Don’t Research Product Claims

NSF International in Ann Arbor, an independent public health and safety organization, released a study showing 61 percent of Americans are concerned about the products they put in, on, and around their bodies, and 34 percent say they rarely or never research product claims. About 46 percent say they have purchased a product despite being unsure of the validity of product claims.
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An NSF International report has found that even though 61 percent of Americans are concerned about products they use, 34 percent rarely or never research product claims // Image courtesy of NSF International

NSF International in Ann Arbor, an independent public health and safety organization, released a study showing 61 percent of Americans are concerned about the products they put in, on, and around their bodies, and 34 percent say they rarely or never research product claims. About 46 percent say they have purchased a product despite being unsure of the validity of product claims.

The online survey conducted on behalf of NSF International polled a representative sample of 1,000 Americans about their concerns related to food, dietary supplements, personal care products, and home cleaning products. The survey reveals a nearly 50/50 split between those who say product claims are helpful and those who say they are confusing, overwhelming, or meaningless.

Americans said they trust claims tested and certified by independent organizations more than claims made by product manufacturers and brands. These findings suggest self-declared claims contribute to consumer confusion and mistrust.

“It’s clear that many consumers have questions and concerns about the safety and authenticity of the products they buy, but they don’t always know whom to trust or where to turn for an honest answer,” says Lisa Yakas, senior product certification manager at NSF. “As consumers, we increasingly want brands and marketers to back up their claims with data and to prove products contain only the ingredients that are listed on the label.”

The survey found that third-party certification is highly trusted. Across all four product categories, 85 percent of respondents said they trust independent, third-party certification organizations, and 78 percent trust claims made by government agencies. Only 32 percent trust claims made by celebrities and influencers. Men are more likely to trust claims made on social media – 44 percent versus 31 percent for women – or by celebrities or influencers – 39 percent versus 26 percent of women.

Millennials have a greater concern over product safety – 74 percent are concerned about potentially harmful food and other consumer products – while 64 percent of Gen X and 53 percent of Baby Boomers have similar concerns. Nearly half of Millennials – 48 percent – and half of Gen Xers – 51 percent – trust claims on social media.

Parents have a greater concern over the safety of products they put in, on, and around their bodies – 79 percent of parents are concerned compared to 55 percent of nonparents. However, 45 percent of parents compared to 17 percent of nonparents said they have purchased a product despite realizing its claim was invalid.

The findings suggest many consumers are unsure how to research and verify claims for themselves and may be unaware of third-party certification programs operated by independent organizations and governmental agencies.

The survey found that most Americans prioritize food quality over safety, with 81 percent assuming the food products they consume adhere to strict safety standards. About 36 percent rarely or never look at claims made on food items.

The safety of cleaning products is the top priority for most people, with 83 percent of respondents saying they are more likely to trust a cleaning product with an independent certification. About 48 percent of respondents said they did not know cleaning products can receive safety certifications.

About 81 percent of Americans assume personal care products adhere to strict quality and safety standards, and 60 percent of Americans don’t check to see if personal care products adhere to strict quality and safety standards. About 52 percent don’t know that personal care products can be certified.

“Given the complexity of global supply chains and the fact that health and safety standards vary by country, it’s challenging for consumers to conduct their own research into everything they buy,” says Yakas. “Independent third-party certification is the easiest way for consumers to check the safety and authenticity of products and the validity of product label claims.”

The full report is available here. The survey was fielded between Feb. 20 and March 1 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points at the 95-percent confidence level.

NSF International tests and certifies more than 30,000 products a year. Its experts also conduct more than 220,000 audits and inspections of manufacturing facilities worldwide annually. The company is 75 years old and has operations in more than 175 countries. It is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Food Safety, Water Quality, and Indoor Environment.

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