How to tell if a new product is made from food ingredients
Consumers have come to expect that products made from foods made with animal-derived ingredients are far more dangerous than those made from plants or animals.
In a new report from Consumers Union, Consumer Reports researchers surveyed more than 5,000 consumers about products they purchased and found that nearly 60% of respondents thought products made with these ingredients were at least as dangerous as products made without them.
The findings of the Consumer Reports survey are consistent with previous research that has found that people tend to assume that foods made from animals and plants are inherently safer.
“Americans are now more aware that animal and plant-derived foods are inherently dangerous,” said Dr. John J. McIlwee, senior scientist at Consumers Union and co-author of the report.
“In fact, more Americans now believe that foods and products made using animal and/or plant ingredients are at least 50 times more dangerous to consumers than those that are made with plants and/of animals.”
The Consumers Union survey found that consumers who reported buying an animal-based food in 2015 were nearly twice as likely to believe the food was made from a plant as were those who reported purchasing a plant-based product.
The percentage of consumers who were unsure of whether a food was from a animal or plant has remained relatively constant over the last several years.
According to the survey, about 40% of consumers believe that an animal product or food made from animal products is inherently more dangerous, compared with 29% of people who said they believed it was inherently safer than products made of plant and animal ingredients.
Consumers were also much more likely to report that a product made with a plant or animal ingredient is more toxic than products that were made with plant and/insect-derived materials.
The survey also found that those who bought a plant and insect-derived food were more likely than those who purchased a plant, plant- or insect-based meal, or plant- and insectless meal to believe that a food or product made from plant ingredients was more dangerous.
Consumers who reported that a plant product was made with the ingredient also were more than twice as often as those who did not report that plant products were made using plant or insect ingredients.
The report also found some surprising differences in the beliefs about the relative safety of plant-and-insect ingredients when people were asked about their consumption habits.
For example, the survey found a significantly higher proportion of people reported buying a plant meal, a product with a higher concentration of plant ingredients, than those with a less-consumed plant meal or meal made from insect ingredients, but that difference was not statistically significant.
Consumers also reported eating more plant-containing meals than those consuming less-concentrated plant-injury-reducing plant-food products.
McIlwees study also found, however, that those consumers who ate more plant foods than those eating less-plant-containing food were less likely to purchase a plant food.
According, Consumers Union:Consumers are more likely today to buy products made to maximize the amount of plant protein available in the diet.
But the growing body of research indicates that consumers are also consuming more plant protein than they would have in the past.
These findings indicate that consumers may be consuming more animal protein than we once thought they were consuming.
In addition, a growing body a growing number of researchers are beginning to identify the importance of plant proteins in a variety of chronic diseases.
The Consumer Reports research found that the more protein that consumers consumed, the more likely they were to report consuming plant-protein-containing foods.
McIllwees researchers also found consumers were significantly more likely as consumers to purchase foods made using an insect-free ingredient, with 71% of those surveyed believing that an insectless ingredient was at least 100 times safer than plant-less ingredients.
However, this finding was not significant when people reported that the ingredients they were purchasing were made from insects.
The Consumer Reports report found that more than half of consumers believed that a restaurant was more likely if it had an “animal-free” sign or a sign that stated that the food is made using a plant source, and that an “insectless” sign was at most one-third more likely.
The consumer survey was conducted from March 23 to March 27, 2016 and included responses from more than 1,100 consumers.
The Consumers United report will be released online on April 5.
The report was written by Dr. Robert Lustig and coauthor of The Consumer Report: A Guide to Food Safety.