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National Restaurant Association - Consumer trust in food supply key to industry’s success

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Consumer trust in food supply key to industry’s success

Working together to build consumer trust in the U.S. food system is integral to the restaurant industry's continued success, the CEO of the Center for Food Integrity said at the group's annual 2012 Summit.

"The focus really is on all of us continuing to work together to build trust in the food system," the organization's leader, Charlie Arnot, noted.

According to Arnot, approximately 180 people attended the conference, which was held Oct. 23-24 in Chicago, and co-sponsored by the National Restaurant Association, International Food Information Council and the FCI. The CEO said the biggest challenge for the foodservice community is that consumers' concerns about the safety of the supply chain are on the rise and that more must be done to allay those fears.

"Statistically we know the system is safer than ever before," he said. Nevertheless, he added, half of the female population in the United States has expressed uncertainty regarding food safety.

"When asked whether our food system was headed on the right or wrong track, 50 percent of women said they were unsure and concerned," Arnot noted. "That's a problem."

He added that the finding is an indication foodservice companies collectively must do a better job of building consumer trust. To achieve that, Arnot said, companies, particularly the larger sized ones, have to convince those consumers they share both their values and concerns.

"These businesses, while large, really have to show their commitment to delivering safe food has never been stronger," he said. "Despite increased skepticism and greater belief that they put profit ahead of consumer interest, the foodservice community must communicate that they are more efficient and operate responsibly every day."

To do that, he said companies must increase their outreach and communications efforts daily.

"This is an opportunity for people across the entire channel to work closely together," he said. "Everyone - farmers, suppliers, processors and restaurant owners - should all have the same interest. The big challenge is if consumer trust is broken. Then, everyone is impacted."

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