One fifth of consumers blame operators for food fraud

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Double check: some 70% of consumers regularly take measures to ensure their food is legitimate
Double check: some 70% of consumers regularly take measures to ensure their food is legitimate
The food industry has been urged to improve food confidence after a new report showed that 20% of consumers are most likely to blame the operator for cases of food fraud.

Insurance company NFU Mutual has published its Food Fraud ​report​ for this year, which also revealed the least trusted product types were processed foods (35%), red meat (18%) and supplements (15%).

The study, which included more than 2,000 respondents, also found that takeaways were the least trusted types of food outlet (42%), followed by online (21%) and convenience stores (16%).

Food assurance stamps have been found to have a very strong influence on purchase decisions, with 67% of people using them to help choose the products they buy, and the Fair Trade stamp proving the most influential.

As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the NFU’s research revealed just 12% of people have confidence in the European food chain and only 7% in the global chain.

One third of consumers (33%) are less trusting of products and retailers than they were five years ago, compared with just 9% whose trust has risen. A further third (33%) believed that food crime is likely to increase in the future.

Horsemeat scandal

Hearing about high-profile cases of fraudulent food in the media, such as the horsemeat scandal in 2013, was the most common cause of reduced confidence in almost half of consumers (46%).

NFU Mutual retail sector specialist Frank Woods outlined how crucial it is to tackle food fraud, prior to Brexit.

He said: “There has never been a more important time for tackling food fraud and getting regulations right as we plan to leave the European Union, but Government proposals for where we will get our food from are already under tough scrutiny from industry and consumers alike with concerns over quality.

“Retailers could be impacted as 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.”

The UK food and drink industry could be losing up to £12bn a year to fraud, entering the food chain through means including falsified or inaccurate documentation and redirection of waste products back into the supply chain or re-dating of stock.

Woods said: “Our research exposes the damaging effect that various influencers have had on consumer confidence over time and the responsibility many people place on operators to thoroughly assess the produce they sell."

Combat fraud

He added: “Much of the industry is addressing this by adapting its supply strategy and supporting British producers – popular with consumers who want to support local businesses on home soil.

“How British retailers will be supported and enabled to deliver the quantity of food required and improve consumer confidence remains to be seen.

“Our Food Fraud ​report provides businesses with the research findings alongside advice from NFU Mutual experts and partners to help them combat fraud and appeal to customers through transparency and trust.”

The report was designed to understand challenges facing businesses working across the ‘field to fork’ supply chain, explores attitudes and influencers of trust, perceived blame, impact upon behaviour and awareness of food crime.

The research also found that more than two thirds of people (70%) regularly take measures to ensure their food is legitimate and 17% avoid certain foods altogether that they think could be susceptible to fraud.

Almost four in five respondents (77%) said they would not know how to spot a counterfeit product. Almost three quarters of people (72%) believe there to be an issue with food fraud in the UK, with more than a quarter also believing they have personally experienced it (27%).

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