February 12, 2009 / 8:37 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. mothers avoiding foods containing peanut butter

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Almost half of U.S. mothers are avoiding food made with peanut butter even if products are not among more than 1,800 recalled because of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 600 people, according to a survey released on Thursday.

The online survey showed that 23 percent of consumers questioned said the most recent food scare would change their long-term buying habits. The survey was released by public relations company Burson-Marsteller and Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, units of WPP Plc.

The salmonella outbreak, linked to 9 deaths, has been traced to a plant in Blakely, Georgia, operated by Peanut Corp of America. The company closed a plant in Texas after tests showed possible contamination in some of its products, Texas state health officials said this week.

Consumers “are clearly willing to quickly change eating or buying habits, for some people, well beyond the actual parameters of a government or a company recall,” said Bill Zucker, managing director of Burson-Marsteller.

Almost all of the 501 consumers surveyed (93 percent) said they had recently read about or heard of food safety issues and recalls.

The survey showed that while 68 percent of people questioned believed instances of food contamination had increased in the past five years, 87 percent felt that the United States had one of the best food safety systems in the world.

Companies with strong brands were more likely to withstand an incident of food contamination than companies not as well known, according to the survey.

Consumers were also more likely to judge an incident of food contamination at a well known company as an isolated event than a similar incident at a lesser known company, the survey showed.

For more on the survey, see www.bm.com/food_safety

Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Toni Reinhold

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