Horsemeat scandal sees consumer confidence fall by a quarter

13 March 2013

Posted by Samuel Couratin

The horsemeat scandal has dented peoples' faith in the food industry, according to a survey by Which?.

The consumer watchdog found that 24 per cent of people do not trust food manufacturers and retailers as much as they did before the scandal. This has led to nearly a third of individuals buying less processed meat and 24 per cent buying fewer meat-based ready meals or choosing a vegetarian option instead.

There is also a lack of faith in the government, with more than two-thirds of people believing it has not done enough to enforce labelling laws. Nearly half of consumers are not sure that ingredient information is accurate.

The scandal has damaged confidence in food safety, with the number of people confident in buying products from supermarkets falling from 90 per cent to 70 per cent.

In light of these statistics, Which? has called for the government to take action. It has outlined five steps, which it claims will raise standards in the industry and lead to increased consumer trust and confidence. These include better and more coordinated food surveillance, tougher enforcement and clear disincentives for illegal practices, as well as tighter legislation to improve traceability and ensure products are regularly tested.

The watchdog also wants to see EU-wide country-of-origin labelling for all processed meat used in products such as ready meals. It has called for the government to scrap plans to drop rules requiring clear ingredient labels for meat sold loose, such as in a delicatessen.

Which? Executive Director Richard Lloyd said: "The horsemeat scandal exposed the need for urgent changes to the way food fraud is detected and standards are enforced. These serious failings must be put right if consumers are to feel fully confident in the food they are buying."

He has called on ministers to ensure that all of the organizations involved, such as government departments, local authorities and the food industry, are "crystal clear about their responsibility to protect consumers and are properly equipped to do so".

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