Brits take food safety for granted

Red Tractor finds that many UK citizens take food safety for granted.
calendar icon 22 October 2019
clock icon 5 minute read

Two decades after some of the biggest food scares which rocked the nation – from salmonella outbreaks to BSE – eight out of 10 adults admit to taking food safety for granted according to new research from YouGov commissioned by the Red Tractor Food Assurance Scheme. The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults looked at people’s concerns about the food they buy and how their confidence in UK produced food has been restored.

The research also reveals a marked difference in the levels of trust between supermarkets and restaurants when it comes to their food standards. In the survey 71 percent of UK adults said they were confident that the food they buy from a supermarket has been produced to high standards and that they know where it comes from; compared to only half of people who feel confident about standards and traceability when eating out at a restaurant or café.

Meanwhile, 76 percent of people admit that they take food being produced to high safety and food standards for granted. This increases to 79 percent for Londoners, who are least likely to be concerned about food safety.

People are most worried about what they perceive could have a direct negative impact on their health. Of all the high profile food crises over the years the one that has made people the most concerned is BSE with 72 percent of Brits admitting to being fairly or very concerned. The numbers increased significantly to 83 percent for those aged 55+. In areas like the North East of England with a prominent farming community it was found to be even higher at 85 per cent.

Jim Moseley, CEO, Red Tractor Assurance said: “If people are now taking food safety for granted, then it demonstrates that we’ve been doing something right.

“Red Tractor was created almost two decades ago, after a spate of food scares and confidence in British food and farming was at a low. Our standards were designed to ensure food that is produced is safe, traceable and farmed carefully, in order to transform and rebuild trust in British farming and food quality from farm to pack.

“However, the success in driving up British food standards must not be undermined by a potential influx of imported food produced to standards that are currently deemed illegal in this country, should we be faced with a no-deal Brexit. There’s no more important time for people to recognise that not all food is produced to the same rigorous standards as the UK.

“There is one simple way we can all help foster a better future for British agriculture, farmers, growers and producers, is to look for the Red Tractor logo when grocery shopping or dining out.”

The report also showed that British food is very much valued. Having world leading food production standards in recent times has successfully helped safeguard the UK from some of the outbreaks and food contamination incidences that have been seen in other countries, including last year’s e-coli outbreak in Romaine lettuce in the USA. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 17 percent of people in the USA suffer from foodborne illnesses each year compared with just 1.5 percent in the UK.

A relaxed view on safety is inextricably linked with the high expectations people now hold for UK produced food. The survey found 60 percent of people cite that the thing they value most about food produced in the UK to be supporting British farmers (30 percent), to purchase local produce (16 percent) and to value the way in which the food is produced (14 percent ); while one in four Brits (24 percent) say their most important consideration is the quality of British food.

The research also shows that the way Brits think about food safety is influenced by media reporting. It found 41 percent of people think about food safety every time they go out shopping to buy food, but this rises significantly to 52 percent when they see a big story about it in the news.

Red Tractor was established in 2000 after a spate of food scares which included BSE and outbreaks of salmonella. Red Tractor was created to transform and rebuild trust in British farming and food by improving standards of safety and quality for UK-farmed food. Red Tractor is the largest food and farming standards scheme in the UK and its standards are considered to be the industry benchmark, with all major supermarkets using them as part of their food sourcing and supplier specifications. Independent companies are employed to undertake Red Tractor inspections, to ensure that they are outside of industry influence and impartial.

More than 60,000 checks are performed each year across the supply chain to safeguard how animals are tended to, how fresh produce is grown and how standards are being followed from field to basket.

Red Tractor has 46,000 British farmer members and products carrying the Red Tractor logo contribute over £14 billion to the UK economy.

Red Tractor is a not-for-profit company dedicated to improving the quality of the food and drink eaten in the UK, making sure that food is traceable, safe and farmed with care.

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