Meat industry almost as untrustworthy as second-hand car dealers, say EU consumers

By David Burrows

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/Branex
© iStock/Branex

Related tags Meat products Meat European union

When it comes to consumer goods, only the second hand car market is performing worse than the meat sector, according to new research published by the European Commission.

The 2016 consumer markets scoreboard shows that meat and meat products had a market performance indictor (MPI) score of 80.6, below the average across all 13 goods categories assessed (82.4). The market for second-hand cars was bottom of the pile (75.6).

“In these markets trust in providers is lower, consumers suffer higher detriment (financial, psychological or time loss), have a hard time comparing offers, are not happy with the choice available and are left with unmet expectations,”​ the Commission explained.

The findings of the 2016 scoreboard are based on the fifth wave of a large-scale survey in 2015 on consumers’ concrete experiences and perceptions regarding the functioning of key goods and services markets in the 28 member states of the EU, Iceland and Norway.

Around 500 consumers were quizzed in most countries for each of the 42 markets assessed (in smaller countries it was 250). To calculate the scores, the Commission used a number of criteria – including trust, expectations, choice and complaints – that are then weighted depending on the market.

Losing ground

Within the goods markets, the 'fast moving retail' markets – such as non-alcoholic drinks and bread, cereals and pasta – had performed well in the three previous editions of the scoreboard. However, they have “lost ground”​ compared to other goods markets, such as electronic (83.9) and ICT products (82.8).

The average score (or MPI) across all goods markets was 82.4. Meat and meat products scored 80.6, below the average, as did fruit and vegetables (81.6). Both markets had improved since 2013, however – by 3.2 and 2.3 points respectively.

Bread, cereals, rice and pasta had an MPI of 83.3, which was an improvement of 0.7 compared to three years ago. The category also had the highest penetration of any market (92%), closely followed by fruit and vegetables (90%), non-alcoholic drinks (87%) and meat (86%).

The results for the fast moving retail market cluster reflect the average of widely varying markets, the Commission noted.

“Books, magazines and newspapers is high-performing, non-alcoholic drinks and bread, cereals, rice and pasta are middle to high performing, non-prescription medicines and fruit and vegetables are middle to low performing, and meat and meat products is low-performing.”

Meat misery

The meat and meat products market ranks 12th​ of the 13 goods markets assessed in the survey, and has ranked among the least performing markets since the one in 2010.

The Commission noted that the horsemeat scandal of 2013 won’t have helped – the MPI dropped 2.1 points in the 2013 survey.

There are signs of improvement, however. Since the 2013 scorecard, the MPI has increased by 3.2 points. This rise has been driven by “improved trust, expectations and comparability”,​ the Commission noted.

The establishment of the Food Fraud Network is highlighted within the 200-page report​ – since it was set up 2013 there has been a “marked increase”​ in exchanges between national authorities with around 200 cases to date.

New EU-level food laws in relation to country of origin labelling on unprocessed meats and the indication of ‘formed meat’ on products has also “generally strengthened the rules on misleading practices”​, the Commission explained.

Problems in the meat market still exist, though: trust “remains low compared to 2013”​ and the proportion of respondents who experienced problems has increased.

When it comes to food safety, fruit and vegetables (21%), nuts, nut products and seeds (16%), and fish and fish products (10%) top the list of notifications.


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