BEIJING — More than half of the people surveyed in a recent study believe food safety is a top 3 global issue, and 77% believe it’s a top 10 global issue, according to new research from the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC).

The study, which was conducted in mid-September by KRC Research using the Mars Food Safety and Security online survey of 1,754 adults ages 18 to 65, received input from respondents in the United States, the United Kingdom and China.

The survey found individuals’ concern with food safety has been heightened by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. According to the survey, 73% of respondents believe the novel coronavirus will impact the viability of the global supply chain, and 71% believe it will have an impact on global access to food.  These individuals think about food safety and security as much as climate change (39%), pollution (38%) and poverty (33%), the survey found.

“New food safety threats, like those posed by COVID-19, are constantly emerging through a combination of factors, including global warming, increased globalization of trade, as well as changes in agriculture practices and food production,” said David Crean, chief science officer and vice president of corporate R&D at Mars. “We believe everyone has a right to safe food, and it's also our responsibility to share our knowledge (82% of survey respondents expressed their desire to learn more), expertise and tools to enable safe food for all.”

Mars food safety chart

The GFSC was established in September 2015 with a goal to tackle the most significant food safety challenges facing the planet today. Specifically, the GFSC has set ambitious targets in three critical areas of food safety:

  • Mycotoxin risk management: developing novel partnerships and breakthrough management strategies to tackle mycotoxin head on; starting with aflatoxins — because of the serious health threat they pose, particularly in the developing world.
  • Microbial risk management: driving research and collaboration to move toward faster detection, identification and, ultimately, a predictive approach.
  • Food integrity: developing tools and capabilities to mitigate food integrity challenges across the food industry and the global food supply chain.

Mars said the center’s three focus areas align with several concerns identified in the September survey, including 60% of respondents who expressed concern about keeping food safety from toxins and 58% who said they are concerned about preventing food fraud.

Survey respondents also expressed the importance for government and private organizations like the GFSC to continue to focus on preventing food safety issues (85%), to invest in early detection programs (84%) and to manage global food safety (80%), Mars said.