U.S. consumers are putting more trust in government agencies when it comes to food and nutrition information. That’s according to the latest survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, which shows consumer trust in government agencies has increased significantly. Last year, 25 percent of survey takers said they “highly” trusted government agencies. In 2018, the figure is up to 38 percent.

Megan Meyer, director of science communication at the IFIC Foundation, says the shift in trust has to do with better communication by agencies including USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.

Meyer said in the last few years, there has been an upwards trend in terms of trust. “Government materials (on nutrition education) are reaching consumers in more effective ways. Not all consumers know that materials like ‘MyPlate’ came from the USDA,” she said, referring to a government guide for nutritious meals.

The survey – the 13th annual edition from IFIC –also found that more than a third (36 percent) of Americans are dieting in one form or another, including one in 10 who fast.

Additionally, the study showed that “Food Values” continue to grow as a factor in consumers’ decision-making at the supermarket. Organic labels have become increasingly popular, with 29 percent of respondents saying they buy Organic, while 37 percent said they want “Natural” products, and 59 percent said they buy goods marked as Sustainable. This has grown from last year, when 25 percent wanted Organic, 31 percent wanted “Natural” and 50 percent wanted Sustainable.

Other highlights from the survey:

  • 80 percent of respondents said there is a lot of conflicting information about which foods to eat or avoid, and 59 percent said that conflicting information makes them doubt their food choices.
  • American consumers believe USDA’s MyPlate recommendations about what foods should fill an adult’s dinner plate. However, even with that knowledge, what consumers actually eat is a different story.
  • About half (48 percent) of consumers who took the survey said they include dairy often or always in their meals, while 2 percent said they never eat dairy products.
  • Out of the 59 percent who believe sustainability is important, their top two most important individual factors of sustainability increased significantly over 2017. In 2018, 33 percent said reducing pesticides was their top priority, up from 27 percent in 2017, while ensuring an affordable food supply increased to 16 percent in 2018 from 10 percent last year.
  • Two products with the same Nutrition Facts Panel were presented in the survey. One had Non-GMO on the label, while the other indicated it included products made with GMOs. Respondents were asked which is healthier. Some 40 percent said the “Non-GMO” label was healthier, while 15 percent selected the “GMO” label.

The report was based on an online survey of 1,009 U.S. adults by Greenwald & Associates conducted from March 12 through March 26.