Food industry ‘fails to deal with food scares effectively’

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food industry, Food

Scare story: the horsemeat crisis rocked consumers' confidence in food manufacturers' ability to deal with food scares
Scare story: the horsemeat crisis rocked consumers' confidence in food manufacturers' ability to deal with food scares
Nearly 60% of consumers lacked confidence in the UK food industry to respond to food scares effectively, warns the latest research from research group Mintel.

Only 42% of consumers believed the food industry was able to effectively react to food scares – such as the horsemeat crisis and BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) – while only 23% thought different parts of the supply chain worked effectively together.

Six months on since the horsemeat crisis dominated media headlines across the globe, less than half (49%) of consumers thought the food industry produced food that was safe food to eat. Nearly two-fifths (37%) were undecided about the safety of food.  

Alex Beckett, senior food analyst at Mintel, said the results revealed a shattering of confidence in the food supply chain. “Only half of adults feel the UK food industry provides food that is safe to eat, signalling a widespread breakdown of trust in the agri-food chain,”​ said Beckett.

‘Widespread breakdown of trust’

Mintel’s exclusive research revealed the need for more active communications and greater transparency towards consumers, he added.

Learning the lessons from recent food crises is the subject of Food Manufacture​’s Food Safety 2013​ conference at the National Motorcycle Museum on Thursday October 17 2013. See the end of this article for more details.

Meanwhile, consumer concerns about food safety focused on the industry’s lack of awareness of their supply chains.  The fact that just 36% of consumers believe food manufacturers know where their ingredients originate highlights just how long and convoluted modern food supply chains can be, continued Beckett. “The food industry looks set to face much work to regain consumer trust.”

Nearly eight-in-10 (77%) adults considered the food industry to be too reliant on mass manufacturing, while only two-fifths (40%) of adults trust food manufacturers and supermarkets to provide accurate labelling on food packaging.

More than a third of consumers (37%) disagreed that large scale retailers knew the origins of their food ingredients.

Less than a quarter (23%) agreed that the different elements of the supply chain worked effectively together.

‘Own-brand products’

“The grocers and manufacturers have typically not drawn attention to suppliers of own-brand products, but providing these details on-pack could help to support consumer trust in the grocers’ sourcing,”​ said Beckett.

Responsibility for food safety should lay nearly equally between government (38%) and food manufacturers (39%), according to the survey.

But affordability was mainly the responsibility of  supermarkets (62%), together with the need to source food from the UK as much as possible (37%).

Beckett’s colleague, Kiti Soininen, took part in Food Manufacture​’s webinar – Horsemeat: learning the lessons of an avoidable crisis​ – in May.

A host of expert speakers – including Andrew Rhodes, Food Standards Agency operations director, Rene Crevel of Unilever and Sue Davies of Which? – will be joining the line up at our Food Safety Conference, at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham on Thursday October 17th.

The conference will update delegates on the latest thinking about how to protect food and drink business from the potentially catastrophic effects of a food safety crisis. Speakers will address how to prevent a safety challenge threatening your business and how to minimise the impact of one once it has occurred.

More details – including the early bird tickets – are available here​.


Top five factors to build consumers’ trust

  1. British ingredients: 48%
  2. Manufacturing details on food labelling (where and when made) (47%)
  3. Animal welfare certificate (45%)
  4. Product origin on the pack (43%)
  5. No artificial ingredients (43%).

Source: Mintel.

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