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Consumers blame producers for food fraud

17 September 2017

The recently published Food Fraud Report reveals that UK consumer confidence in food is declining, with fraud cases such as the horse meat scandal being considered mostly to blame. 

The NFU Mutual Food Fraud Report 2017 revealed that 63% of consumers would be most likely to blame producers for cases of food fraud, compared with retailers, distributors and farmers. The report also found that only 12% of people have confidence in the European food chain and just 7% in the global chain, fewer than one-in-ten people.

Almost three-quarters believe there is still an issue with food fraud in the UK, with over 25% also believing that they have personally experienced this. One-third of consumers surveyed are less trusting of products and retailers than they were five years ago, compared with only 9% whose trust has increased, and a further 33% believe that food crime is likely to increase in the future.

UK consumers are Least trusting of processed foods (35% of the vote), followed by red meat (18%) and supplements (15%).

Commenting on the report findings, Darren Seward, food and drink manufacturing specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “There has never been a more important time for tackling food fraud and getting regulation right as we plan to leave the European Union. Government proposals for where we will get our food from are already under tough scrutiny from industry and consumers alike with concerns over skilled labour and quality.

“Producers are under immense pressure to offset price rises caused by the weakened value of sterling and higher import costs, squeezing already tight budgets and resources and potentially cornering them into using cheaper global suppliers that may be more vulnerable to fraud.”

Losing £12bn to fraud
Figures from accountants, Crowe, Clarke & Whitehill, state that the UK food and drink industry could be losing up to £12 billion annually to fraud. Fraudulent food can enter the food chain via falsified or inaccurate documentation, redirection of waste products back into the supply chain or due to redating of stock, according to the Food Standards Agency Food Crime Assessment 2016. 

“The research exposes the damaging effect that various influencers have had on consumer confidence over time,” continued Seward. “Much of the industry is addressing this by changing its supply strategy and supporting British producers – likely to be popular with a majority of consumers who want to support local businesses on home soil as shown in our research. How British producers will be supported and enabled to deliver the quantity of food required and improve consumer confidence remains to be seen.”

The research also found that over two-thirds of consumers regularly take measures to ensure their food is legitimate such as reading ingredients or the front label of a product, and 17% avoid certain foods altogether that they believe could be susceptible to fraud. Almost four out of five respondents though (77%) said that they would not know how to spot a counterfeit product. 

Food assurance stamps were identified as having a very strong influence on purchase decisions, with 67% of people using them to help choose the products they buy, and the Fairtrade stamp proving the most influential.

To download a free PDF copy of the full report, which includes advise on how to combat fraud and to appeal to consumers through transparency and trust, go to: www.nfumutual.co.uk/foodfraud


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