The research – the Trust in Food Index, conducted with over 3,500 adults across the UK – found that trust in food has declined by 8% overall and this increases to 13% for those in skilled, manual employment. Last year, 81% of UK consumers said they trusted food in the UK compared to this year at 73%.
The swings in trust come as shoppers are forced to change their buying habits because of the cost-of-living crisis. Almost half (46%) of people said they were changing what they buy to feed their families with 30% of consumers buying less meat. This increases to 35% for those from lower income households, the research revealed.
Almost a quarter of shoppers (24%) said they were trading down, buying what they perceive to be food produced to lower food safety and animal welfare standards, which increases to 29% for people on lower incomes.
The research also shows that 13% are buying less fruit and vegetables, which again rises to 19% for people with less disposable income.
In the research from last year, 78% of people said they trusted the safety and quality of food purchased from supermarkets. However, this year, this figure has fallen to only 58%.
According to the research this suggests that as people switch and trade down to value ranges, the standards for these ranges are assumed to be weaker.
More than half (55%) of shoppers who trust UK food said the UK’s system of high standards and regulation was their number one reason for doing so.
“With the impact of the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis taking hold, it’s no surprise that confidence in so many aspects of daily life has fallen. While British food continues to be highly trusted, our latest Trust in Food Index shows that as people are forced to trade down into cheaper products, they lose confidence in the way the food is produced,” said Christine Tacon, Chair, Red Tractor.
“That’s understandable – but it’s also unnecessary. Whilst some shoppers now struggle to afford the prime cuts and choice ingredients, if they buy assured British food, the strict regulations on food safety, animal welfare and other aspects of food production, apply equally to value ranges as they do to premium products. We must tackle this before the drop in trust becomes toxic, by making it clear to people doing their shopping.”
Sir Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby and Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said: “As the Government looks to grapple with the increased costs that our food producers and consumers face - and the impact this is having on our food security - we may have to revisit the balance we strike between the food we import and the food we grow ourselves. If we are to seek to grow more food ourselves, it will be vital to maintain trust in the UK food system and to ensure that no one has to compromise standards for price. The Red Tractor scheme plays an important role in raising the public’s awareness that our food is produced to high standards.”