UK survey shows low level of trust in U.S. food

Only a quarter of British people trust food from the United States, according to a survey.

Research conducted online by YouGov with more than 3,500 adults across the United Kingdom in July and August looked at levels of trust in domestic and imported food.

Only 25 percent of British people trust food from the United States. This is the same level as Kenya and Brazil. Only 11 percent trust food from China.

Trust in chicken from the United States is especially low and the report suggests this could be a reflection of the debate and concern about chlorinated chicken.

UK public trusts domestic food
The Trust in Food index, launched by food chain assurance system Red Tractor, found the public believes that the UK’s food is safe, traceable and of good quality with 84 percent of consumers trusting food from Britain. Trust is highest in vegetables and fruit, followed by bread and milk but lower for meat and fish.

Of consumers that trust UK food a little or not at all, the main criticism is food available to them is unhealthy, overly processed or low quality. One in five base their criticism on the fear that UK food standards will drop because of Brexit.

Professor Susan Jebb, chair of the Food Standards Agency, said: “I find it really encouraging to see the results of this poll which reaffirms our knowledge that people have strong levels of trust in UK food.”

Ireland and New Zealand have the highest levels of trust amongst UK consumers, followed by EU food producers such as Sweden, Germany, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands. About six in 10 trust food from Australia and Canada. New Zealand is rated highly for its lamb, Ireland for beef, and Spain for fresh produce.

Half of those surveyed refer to high standards and regulations as the reason they trust food in the UK. Respondents also feel that inspection and assurance systems such as British Lion and Red Tractor play a greater role than government in ensuring the UK’s food is safe and of good quality.

More than twice as many people trust food bought in shops than in takeaways and deliveries. The low level of trust in the takeaway sector is interesting given the growth of the sector in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report.

Lower trust in takeaways
Christine Tacon, chair of Red Tractor, said the most important finding in the report is why most people trust the food they buy in the UK.

“By far the biggest reason why people trust food here in the UK is the strength of our food standards and our independent assurance schemes. Crucially, the parts of the UK food industry where those standards and schemes are less visible to consumers — such as takeaways and food service businesses — have much lower levels of trust,” she said.

“What that tells us is that if we want to maintain trust in UK food over the coming years, the most important thing isn’t what trade deals we sign with other countries. It’s whether we keep backing our food standards regime, led by the FSA, and supported by the many food assurance schemes which have been established over the past 20 years. We need to put a much bigger focus on the food service sector and make sure that food with poor standards and low traceability doesn’t creep in through the back door.”

Research will be repeated every year to track levels of trust by UK consumers in domestic and imported food.

Tim J. Smith, chair of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, said being able to trust that food has been produced to high standards is vital.

“On the one hand, we have the prospect of greater choice and more affordable food from around the world. On the other, we have the right to expect the food we eat in the UK to have been produced to the same ethical, environmental and animal welfare standards,” he said.

“This report shows that the government and food industry must do more to improve that transparency in the food service and out of home supply chains, and it is important that we take every opportunity to do so to maintain the levels of trust we have built in food in the UK.”

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