Webinar: What do consumers know about food? Results from EUFIC’s food literacy survey in 7 European countries

Last Updated : 05 July 2024
Table of contents

    In the context of our first long-term goal of building food and health science literacy, we conducted this survey to find out what consumers understood in this area, and where were their greatest knowledge gaps, so to better tailor our activities to address these gaps.

    European food literacy survey 2023-2024:

    • Assess consumers' nutrition knowledge and health and food science literacy to understand which areas should be targeted for education/communication
    • 500 participants each Germany, France, Italy, Spain, UK, Slovenia and 1000 from Türkiye
    • Launched autumn 2023, except Türkiye launched winter 2024
    • Nationally representative on age and gender from ages 18-99
    • ~65 questions, 15 minutes to complete

    The first part of the survey tested people’s nutrition knowledge that consisted of around 40 true and false questions. Presenting the higher impact myths and related findings: that is, the ones that more participants got wrong and that also have the potential to cause more harm.

    Main findings about nutrition knowledge

    1. Confusion over what constitutes a healthy meal
    2. Confusion over what constitutes a balanced diet
    3. Confusion about carbs
    4. Confusion about fresh vs. lightly processed produce
    5. But less confusion about processed meat
    6. Suspicious about food additives
    7. Confusion about eggs
    8. Confusion about dairy
    9. Most people think red wine is healthy
    10. Less confusion on the foods that increase blood pressure
    11. Diet generally thought to have strongest effect on obesity and weakest effect on cancer

    Implications for food literacy 

    Consumers need more education about: Solutions
    • Composition of a healthy meal, and balanced diet
    • Relationship between carbohydrates
    & weight gain
    • Effects of red wine/alcohol
    • Effects of eggs on cholesterol
    • Nutrition value of frozen produce
    • Dairy recommendations
    • More research needed on how best to communicate about
    balanced diets and dietary recommendations to increase engagement and understanding
    •Increased dissemination of information through capacity building
    with health professionals/community centres/chefs, etc.
    • Increased dissemination of appropriate dietary norms via HoReCa,
    retail and media, etc.
    •Tools to help people plan balanced diets and evaluate their own diet

    The second part of the survey is on food science literacy. We tested people’s understanding of everyday scientific topics that may influence how they interpret nutrition findings reported in the media.

    Main findings about science literacy

    1. Correlation is seen as causation
    2. Trouble with scientific consensus
    3. Little understanding of dose response sensitivity and generalisability
    4. Interpretation of recommendations

    Implications for food science literacy 

    Consumers have difficulty with:Solutions
    • Correlation vs. causation
    • Differences between epidemiological vs. experimental data
    • Scientific consensus
    • Dose response sensitivity and generalisability
    • Food science communicatiors (e.g.reporters, experts, university press release officers) also need more education/resources on:
    - how to interpret research findings and their reliability/generalisability
    - how to better communicate findings, limitations, and implications to the public
    • Education on science, digital, and media literacy via schools, university, community centres, libraries, etc.

    We also examined whether consumer segments that have been shown to eat less healthily might have greater deficiencies in food literacy.

    The consumer segments that tend to eat less healthily also tend to have worse nutrition knowledge – that is younger adults, males, and those who are less educated.

    Implications for consumer segments 

    Segments that need more support: Solutions
    • Younger adults
    • Males
    • Those with a lower level of education

    • Research on how to better communicate food information to these segments
    (e.g., language level, how to increase the relevance and applicability of the information to the specific segment)
    • Dissemination of information via schools, universities, youth clubs, sports clubs/gyms
    • Dissemination of information through capacity building with food banks/social services