Food Knowledge - ©

Many Americans Dismally ‘Food Illiterate’

A new survey reveals that many Americans (and, probably, Canadians, too) are woefully uninformed about their food, where it comes from and how it is produced. If that sounds odd to you, just have a gander at some of the key results from the wide-ranging ‘food literacy’ questionnaire…

A shocking number of Americans (and, probably, Canadians and Europeans) are woefully uninformed or misinformed about where their food comes from and how it is produced.

The Michigan State University Food Literacy and Engagement Poll presents some shocking statistics about what Americans believe about their food and how it’s produced. Among the more revealing findings:

  • One out of three Americans aged 18 and up think that Non-GMO foods don’t have genes. Well, actually, they have to, because all living things have genes.
  • Only 2 per cent of Americans live on farms and, therefore, know first hand how their food is produced.
  • 59 per cent of poll respondents said they strongly trust academic scientists
  • 40 per cent said they strongly trust Government scientists
  • Only 33 per cent said trust industry scientists.
  • One in  three poll respondents said they every choose Organic foods when they’re available.
  • Two thirds of respondents said they choose organic foods only sometimes or rarely.
  • Almost half of respondents said they seek such information rarely or never.
  • Only one in three said they considered their knowledge of the global food system higher than average.
  • Only one out of three seek information about where their food was grown and how it was produced more than once a week.
  • 66 per cent of those polled said that information on food labels is strongly influential in their food choice decisions.
  • Almost 80 per cent said that fresh fruit and vegetables are available every day where they live.

How do you combat Food Illiteracy?

Education has been touted as the answer, but the results of the Michigan poll show that almost half of all Americans distrust so-called ‘experts’. Another vector for remediation could be food documentaries. A recently released doc featuring the highly trusted science populist Neil Degrasse Tyson, Food Evolution, is aiming to combat widespread misinformation about the food system, focusing on GMOs.

But, as I see it, the Internet has the most potential to reverse the alarming trend to food illiteracy. It spread all the misinformation that is causing so much confusion and mistrust among average folks. It’s just that the people who know the truth – the scientists and experts’ largely don’t get involved in ground level online conversations… Maybe they should.

~ Maggie J.