The NFU Mutual Food Fraud Report 2017 – published yesterday (September 7) – found that 63% of consumers blamed producers for food fraud, compared with retailers, distributors and farmers.
Almost three quarters (72%) believed food fraud was a widespread problem in the UK. More than a quarter (27%) also believed they had personally experienced it.
One third of consumers (33%) were less trusting of food products and retailers than they were five years ago, compared with only 9% whose trust had increased. A further 33% believed that food crime was likely to increase in the future.
Food crime was likely to increase
The research also revealed that only 12% of consumers had confidence in the European food chain, while fewer than one in 10 (7%) said they had confidence in the global food chain.
Commenting on the report, NFU Mutual food and drink manufacturing specialist Darren Seward said that it was now an important time for tackling food fraud and getting regulation right as Brexit draws closer.
“Producers are under immense pressure to offset price rises caused by the weakened value of sterling and higher import costs, squeezing already tight budgets and resources and potentially cornering them into using cheaper global suppliers that may be more vulnerable to fraud,” said Seward.
NFU Mutual’s report also found that processed foods were the product type that UK consumers were the least trusting of, with 35% of the vote, followed by red meat (18%) and supplements (15%).
Reports about high profile cases of food fraud in the media – such as the horse meat scandal in 2013 – were the most common cause of reduced confidence in 46% of consumers.
‘Damaging effect that various influencers have’
Seward added: “Our research exposes the damaging effect that various influencers have had on consumer confidence over time.
“Much of the industry is addressing this by changing its supply strategy and supporting British producers – likely to be popular with a majority of consumers who want to support local businesses on home soil as shown in our research.”
According to NFU Mutual, over two thirds of people (70%) regularly took measures to ensure their food is legitimate, such as reading ingredients or the front label of a product, while 17% avoid certain foods altogether that they believed could be susceptible to fraud.
However, almost four out of five respondents (77%) said that they would not know how to spot a counterfeit product.
Meanwhile, last month, two men were jailed for their roles in a conspiracy to pass off horsemeat as beef in a bid to bolster company profits.
Comment from Andy Morling
Head of food crime at the Food Standards Agency Andy Morling said the NFU Mutual report highlighted a need for zero tolerance for food fraud from manufacturers.
Morling told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Producers and manufacturers have a legal obligation to ensure the safety and authenticity of the food we eat, and the majority of food businesses recognise this responsibility.
“However, the figures in this report reinforce the critical need for zero tolerance of dishonesty in the food chain and the importance of a robust response wherever it is found.”