When asked how often they worried about food safety, 80% of Spanish consumers said ‘very often’ or ‘often’, Italian and Croatian respondents both totalled 79%.
The UK (36%) was the least worried, with Austria and Switzerland (44%), Germany (49%) and Czech Republic (55%) also below the EU average of 61%, worrying ‘once in a while’ or ‘(almost) never’.
The survey, which spanned 11 countries, was commissioned by FEVE the European Container Glass Federation as part of the Friends of Glass campaign.
It asked more than 8,000 consumers between the ages of 24 and 64 about their perception of food packaging related to food safety, environment and taste.
FEVE said it is clear that people worry about contamination from packaging and are looking at how products are stored and packaged - not just what is written on the label.
The findings reveal that European consumers (60%) are most worried about plastic containers impacting the food/beverage content or ingredients followed by metal tin (47%), metal beverage can (46%), bag in box (40%), beverage carton (29%) and glass (8%).
Contamination and migration
84% of consumers surveyed believe chemical interactions from packaging could be a risk to human health.
Two thirds (66%) admitted they are worried about food contamination, as well as the risk of chemicals leaching from food packaging into its content.
Southern and Eastern EU countries were most worried about contamination and chemical migration (Poland 83%, Croatia 83% and Slovakia 82%).
The UK (36%), Austria and Switzerland (51%) were the least worried.
Professor Dieter Schrenk, an expert in Pharmacology and Toxicology at University of Kaiserslautern, said the issue of transfer of food packaging material-borne compounds into food is important.
“Here, plastic polymers, metals and paper/cardboard have been shown in the past to be a relevant source for unwanted chemicals in food.
”These occur via migration of mostly intentionally added or process-related constituents. Although the risk of exposure towards food contaminated with such compounds is considered as low, more research is needed to clarify this issue scientifically.”
71% said they worried ‘a lot’ or ‘to some extent’ about the contamination of food through intentional tampering of the product or food fraud.
Southern and Eastern EU countries were most worried about food product tampering (Poland 90%, Croatia 89% and Spain 79%).
UK (38%) and Austria and Switzerland (both 55%) were the least worried.
Safest packaging material
Among those who opt for glass, 61% trust it as the safest packaging for their health. This compares with 48% of consumers surveyed in 2010.
When asked about the safest packaging material for food and beverage, glass was considered the safest by almost half of those surveyed.
Metal tin (16%), bag in box (14%), beverage carton (14%), plastics 11% and metal beverage can (2%) were the other packages included.
Germany (64%) reported the best perception for glass being the safety packaging material, Italy (53%) and Austria (53%).
The UK (38%), Slovakia and Czech Republic (both 44%) and Spain and Poland (both 45%) reported the lowest glass perception.