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Food fraud fears intensify, new survey suggests

Almost three in four consumers believe there is “an issue” with food fraud in the UK, and one in five (20%) would blame the retailer first. However, only 27% have ever personally experienced at least one issue relating to food fraud, such as hidden ingredients or misleading labelling.

The findings, published in the NFU Mutual’s food fraud report 2017, “expose the damaging effect that various influencers have had on consumer confidence over time, and the responsibility many people place on retailers to thoroughly assess the produce they sell”, said NFU Mutual retail sector specialist Frank Woods.

Indeed, a third of consumers (33%) are less trusting of products and retailers than they were five years ago, with high profile cases like the horsemeat scandal in 2013 the most common cause of reduced confidence (46%). One in four shoppers (25%) don’t trust big corporations, whilst almost one in five (19%) lack trust in the supply chain as a whole.

However, stories of chlorine-washed chicken and genetically modified food are also fuelling concerns: only 7% of consumers have confidence in global food chains.

“Leaving the European Union is presenting the food industry with vulnerability to a variety of potential practical pitfalls when decisions are made regarding issues such as labour, subsidies, new legislation and so on,” said Woods. “Government solutions for where our food will come from are already under tough scrutiny from industry and consumers alike.”

The survey also shows that takeaways are the least trusted outlets (42% of the 2,027 respondents trust these the least), compared to 15% who said restaurants and just 6% who chose mid-range supermarkets. Processed foods (35%) are the products people trust least, followed by red meat (18%) and supplements (15%). Only one in four (25%) trust all of the products they buy to be 100% legitimate.

“Consumers quite rightly demand the highest standards in product integrity and the only way to ensure that is by identifying and addressing threats in the supply chain,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium. “Regardless of where fault may lie in the supply chain, retailers are well aware that their customer safety and trust is at risk. Anything that damages that can have a significant commercial impact on their business.”