Consumer confidence in food safety on the rise?

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food industry, Food, Food processing

Consumer confidence in food safety in the UK is recovering from the
low levels it had reached last year after the Sudan 1 food scare,
according to a new survey.

In February 2005, Sudan 1 was at the centre of the biggest food recall in the UK's history, when authorities detected this potentially carcinogenic colour in chilli powder used in a batch of Worcester sauce supplied by St.Albans-based firm Premier Foods.

Supplying both retail and industrial ingredient markets, Premier Foods identified 340 customers who may have been supplied with the contaminated Worcester sauce. The result: over 600 processed food products were pulled from the shelves with recalls running into millions of euros.

But according to a new study by European food industry crisis management consultancy Razor, only 12 per cent of UK adults surveyed in March 2006 said they are still less confident about the safety of the food they buy since the recall.

This compares to 27 percent of adults surveyed immediately after the Sudan 1 crisis in February 2005.

This result is partly a reward for the hard work undertaken by manufacturers, retailers, legislators and trade organisations to rebuild the food industrys reputation over the last year,​ said Chris Woodcock, Razor managing director and risk communications specialist.

However, food companies and retailers should take consumer distrust seriously. For example, the recent disagreement over labelling between the Food Standards Agency and a breakaway group of manufacturers is surely confusing and does not portray a clear message to the consumer,​ he added.

The survey, which was based on responses from 1,000 adults, also highlighted the growing trend away from processed foods, said Razor, which is a member of the Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association.

Around a quarter of respondents said they bought fewer ready meals and pre-packaged foods over the last year, with the same number of respondents saying they bought more fresh, non-processed foods.

According to Woodcock, the public are bombarded with information relating to food,​ which makes it vital that the food industry takes an increasingly responsible lead with proactive communication to demonstrate ultra-transparency and to help consumers make informed choices.

Another important issue facing the food industry is the threat of avian influenza, said Razor. Wild fowl has already been removed from the menu of one UK restaurant, and the McDonalds chain has said that it has emergency contingency plans in place to replace all chicken products on its menus. Such precautions are also seen in the US, with leading companies such as Hormel Foods and Panera Bread revealing that they have marketing strategies lined up in the event of bird flu hitting the US.

In this context it is vital that the food industry ensures its crisis and business continuity plans are up to date,​ said Woodcock.

Related topics: Market Trends, Food safety

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