British consumer confidence in U.K. food industry low following horse meat scandal

by Keith Nunes
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LONDON — Consumer trust in the United Kingdom’s food manufacturing industry is at a low, according to Mintel International. The market research firm has identified what it calls a “startling lack of confidence among British consumers in the U.K. food industry’s ability to provide food that is safe to eat.”

Research conducted by Mintel found that only 49% of British consumers trust the food industry to provide safe food. The survey findings come in the wake of a scandal involving the mislabeling of horse meat as beef that has spread from the U.K. throughout the European Union.

“That food should not be harmful should be one of the most basic of consumer expectations, yet only half of adults feel the U.K. food industry provides food that is safe to eat, signaling a widespread breakdown of trust in the agri-food chain, and suggesting the need for more active communications and greater transparency towards consumers,” said Alex Beckett, a senior food analyst with Mintel. “The fact that just 36% of consumers believe manufacturers know where their ingredients originate highlights just how long and convoluted modern food supply chains can be. The food industry looks set to face much work to regain consumer trust.”

The Mintel survey also found that 77% of the consumers surveyed consider the U.K. food industry to be too reliant on large-scale manufacturing. As a result, consumer interest in local foods, those sold within 30 miles of production, increased, and consumer interest in regional products also has increased, according to Mintel.

The research firm’s data also illustrate how labeling concerns echo consumer misgivings about some manufacturer’s inability to control their supply chain. Only 40% of adults said they trust supermarkets and food manufacturers to provide accurate labeling on food packaging.

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