Ninety-three percent of the public have expressed confidence in Abu Dhabi's food facilities' ability to meet consumers' food needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing global confidence levels that reached 77%, moreover, 86 percent are confident in the precautionary measures implemented by Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) to ensure food safety during the pandemic.
This reflected the great confidence of Abu Dhabi's citizens and residents in their wise leadership, who have always emphasized that 'food and medicine are a red line'. The results also showed consumer's confidence in public and private institutions that have intensified their efforts to secure food, ensure handling it safely, and take all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the food chain.
ADAFSA's Statistics and Analysis Division have conducted a survey covering a random sample of Abu Dhabi's citizens and residents, to know their opinions on the impact of COVID-19 on food-purchasing, eating habits and consumers' perceptions of food safety in the Emirate. To verify the feasibility of the awareness programs that were provided by ADAFSA to consumers and food-related facilities, the survey also aimed at checking the adequacy of the implemented regulations of relevancy to food safety, livestock and agricultural affairs in Abu Dhabi.
The survey's questions aimed at measuring confidence in actions taken by ADAFSA during COVID-19, as well as identifying the pandemic's impact on food-purchasing patterns, eating habits and consumers' perceptions of food safety in Abu Dhabi. About 89% of survey takers said ADAFSA has raised awareness of consumers and food-related facilities about the necessary procedures and practices to ensure food safety, while 86% of respondents are very confident in the accuracy and clarity of information provided by ADAFSA to educate the public about requirements to ensure food safety and promote animal and plant health.
In addition, 89% of respondents expressed confidence in ADAFSA's procedures to ensure implementing regulations of relevancy to food safety, livestock and agricultural affairs in the Emirate, furthermore, 84% said they are confident in the transparency of information provided by ADAFSA to the public. Moreover, eighty-two percent of survey takers are confident that ADAFSA is offering up-to-date information on social media accounts.
Regarding food-purchasing patterns, eating habits and consumers' perceptions of food safety in Abu Dhabi, the survey's results showed a high level of societal awareness among Abu Dhabi's people compared to global levels. Fifty-one percent of survey takers said they're keen to shop at less crowded groceries, compared to 31% globally, while 58 percent said they're doing less shopping in-person during the lockdown, compared to 50% globally.
As for eating habits, 80% of respondents said they're eating more home-cooked meals, compared to 47% globally, but 36 percent confirmed they're eating healthier food than usual, compared to 15% globally.
With respect to steps taken by consumers to feel comfortable with the safety of their food while shopping, 83% of respondents said they're washing their hands after shopping, compared to 63% globally, while 61% of them indicated they're avoiding touching surfaces while shopping, compared to 50% globally.
Additionally, 51% of survey takers are very confident that the food they're buying from food outlets (supermarkets and groceries) is safe, compared to 39% globally. Meanwhile, the health of food handlers is the main concern for 61% of survey takers, compared to about 37% globally, but the health of other shoppers is the concern 56% of respondents, compared to 42% globally. Regarding type of information related to COVID-19, which is of great importance to consumers, tips and guidelines for preparing food safely at home are the most important information for 52% of survey takers, compared to 12% globally.
Commenting on these results, Aisha Al Nayli Al Shamsi, Director of ADAFSA's Statistics and Analysis Division, said the survey is a scientific study that was conducted systematically to know the Emirate's people opinions on COVID-19 impact on food-related patterns and habits. She added this study contributes to decision-making and developing programs for customers to address food issues during this crisis.
"The survey's results have reflected the level of societal awareness of Abu Dhabi people, their responsible interaction with the awareness programs and campaigns, and their commitment to implementing the best food-related practices and the necessary measures to handle food safely," Al Shamsi noted.
She expressed her happiness for the results, as they represent different nationalities and age groups, adding these results show the commitment of all to implementing food safety standards and interacting positively with ADAFSA's awareness programs, guidelines and measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Al Shamsi clarified that Abu Dhabi's food facilities and consumers are bearing their responsibility by implementing all controls of food safety management system, including sanitizing and cleaning workplaces, monitoring procedures regularly, ensuring social distancing, using personal protective equipment, awareness-raising and training, and updating work procedures. This contributes effectively to enhancing prevention within the facility and improving the quality and safety of food being offered to consumers.
In collaboration with the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, ADAFSA will continue implementing these measures until post-COVID-19, to ensure food safety, maintain the health of consumers and food handlers, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the food chain, Al Shamsi indicated.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, ADAFSA has been taking many precautionary measures. In collaboration with local, regional and international organizations, ADAFSA is working on fostering food safety measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. ADAFSA further has issued, in cooperation with INFOSAN, WHO and FAO, a guidance document addressing COVID-19 issues, its relation to food, and measures to prevent its transmission into food facilities and when handling food. The document was circulated to all the world's countries to raise awareness of food safety authorities, food handlers and consumers about practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as improve hygiene in these facilities, thus achieving high levels of food safety.