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Consumer concerns revealed


Price, time and convenience are the most important factors for consumers, a new report from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) revealed last week. The FSA submission to the Policy Commission on Farming and Food for England highlighted the importance of ensuring that developments in agriculture do not exacerbate the difficulties faced by low-income consumers and stressed the need to limit confusion over the uses of logos and their meaning. Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency said: "Industry assurance schemes have a role in promoting consumer choice in the market, but it is essential that this choice is both clear and meaningful. We want more truth, less hype". The FSA stated its concern that unclear logos and meanings would mislead the consumer and blur the impact of any possible benefits to the consumer. Manufacturers, the FSA suggested, could help build consumer confidence by using the following principles: transparency; higher food safety standards; independent and regular verification; consistent implementation and clear benefits for the consumer. The Agency's submission also shows that the average UK family spends about 16 per cent of its income on food, but low-income families spend as much as 30 per cent. The Agency says changes in the nature of food production should not result in universally raising prices, as this could further restrict the access of low-income consumers to a range of affordable, nutritious food. Food prices are determined in Europe by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but for the commodities supported, the CAP actually keeps food prices over 20 per cent higher than world market prices. The Agency will be calling on the Food and Farming Commission to recommend urgent reform of the CAP regime.

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