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Abstract

This study examines public perceptions of the safety of fresh produce (spinach and lettuce), beef, and poultry, employing survey data collected during the 2006 nationwide recall of fresh spinach contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The results show that white respondents perceived all products to be safe. In contrast, young people, people with only a high school education, and those with lower household incomes ($50,000 or below), were more likely to view fresh produce, beef, and poultry as unsafe. Trust in the USDA as well as conventional farmers contributed toward more positive perceptions of spinach and lettuce. Low levels of objective knowledge about foodborne pathogens and resulting illnesses contributed to negative food safety perceptions. Efforts should be directed toward additional public education and outreach about general aspects of food safety, especially targeting youth, low income groups, non-whites, and those with education at or below a high school level.

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