Recalls heighten consumer mistrust in food firms

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Traceability issues could cost food manufacturers the trust of its consumers
Traceability issues could cost food manufacturers the trust of its consumers

Related tags coronavirus Traceability

More than a third of UK consumers believe food and drink firms are not transparent enough when it comes to product recalls, according to standards and barcode provider GS1 UK.

New research conducted by YouGov on behalf of GS1 revealed that traceability and transparency in the food supply chain were high on the list of consumer concerns when it came to the food that they ate.

Of those surveyed, 37% said brands and retailers lacked transparency with customers about occurrences of product recalls. This grew to 39% in the south east of England and fell to 27% for respondents in the East Midlands.

It also revealed that 45% of those surveyed would change their future shopping habits following cases of product mislabelling or contamination. This could prove disastrous for manufacturers, as brands would be four times more likely to be negatively affected following a recall.

Heightened levels of distrust

The heightened level of consumer mistrust was reflected in growing awareness of the food industry’s vulnerability to these issues, with nine in 10 consumers aware of food contamination at source.

Gary Lynch, chief executive at GS1 UK, said: “Our findings confirm that product traceability is increasingly shaping consumer habits, with costly consequences for retailers and product manufacturers who fail to be transparent.”

He argued that only end-to-end monitoring of products moving along the supply chain, for example through GS1’s own proprietary systems, could food and drink manufacturers rebuild the trust potentially lost through recalls.

“Only then will businesses be able to build trust with their customers, maintain consumer demand and, ultimately, ensure their survival in what is becoming an increasingly competitive and saturated market amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” ​Lynch added.

‘Traceability is key’

”The coronavirus crisis has also illuminated for many the importance of health and wellbeing, and the accurate traceability of products is key to delivering this successfully to consumers.”

Food firms could avoid serious safety-related product recalls by applying the ‘Never Event’ principle​ used in the health sector, a leading consultant in the field has argued.

By using the principle, changes could be made to reduce the product recalls caused by unnecessary errors, said RQA Group managing director Vince Shiers.

Meanwhile, Dionisis Theodosis, group chemistry technical manager at Eurofins Food Testing UK & Ireland, discusses the need for harmonisation and information-sharing across industry​ if we are to uphold food standards.

Related topics Food Safety Supply Chain COVID-19

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