Trust higher in supermarket food than takeaways, says report

More than twice as many people trust food bought in supermarkets than food ordered from takeaways and deliveries, claims a new report.

The UK’s first “Trust in Food” Index, published by Red Tractor and YouGov to capture the UK public’s attitudes to food and drink, reveals that 78% of British consumers trust food bought from supermarkets that they then prepare themselves at home. This level of trust falls slightly for food prepared in restaurants (70%) and significantly for takeaways and deliveries (37%).

According to the report, 84% of UK consumers trust food from Britain, with confidence being greater the closer to home a product is made. What’s more, assurance with UK food is said to be on a par with water quality and NHS care, but significantly more than the police, judicial services, and other daily essentials and utilities, such as gas and electricity.

When it comes to food from outside the UK, trust varies wildly. Ireland and New Zealand maintain the highest levels amongst UK consumers, followed by leading EU food producers such as Sweden, Germany, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands. By contrast, only 25% of Brits trust food from the USA and just 11% trust food from China.

Interestingly, while English consumers generally trust food from across the UK equally, Scots and Welsh are assured by their own food more than other nations.

One of the main reasons cited for the public’s confidence in British food is the systems of regulation and assurance that exist in the UK. However, respondents feel that inspection and assurance schemes such as British Lion and Red Tractor (70%) play a greater role than the Government (64%) in ensuring that the UK’s food is safe and of good quality.

The report also reveals that ingredients, health indicators, and country of origin details are the information shoppers most often pay attention to on packaging, while demand for information on allergens is rising, with 12% of respondents saying that they always look for that information, and 29% saying they often do.

Christine Tacon, chair, Red Tractor, said: “The most important finding in this Report isn’t simply that most people trust the food they buy in the UK. It’s the reason why. By far the biggest reason why people trust food here in the UK is the strength of our food standards and our independent assurance schemes.

“Crucially, the parts of the UK food industry where those standards and schemes are less visible to consumers – such as takeaways and food service businesses – have much lower levels of trust. More than twice as many people trust food from shops and supermarkets, where front of pack logos and certifications are visible, than trust takeaways and deliveries, where those standards and the regulations they follow are harder to track and see.

“What that tells us is that if we want to maintain trust in UK food over the coming years, the most important thing isn’t what trade deals we sign with other countries. It’s whether we keep backing our food standards regime, led by the Food Standards Agency, and supported by the many food assurance schemes which have been established over the past twenty years.

“There is a lot in this report that is encouraging for us at Red Tractor, but it’s also shown that we have much more work to do. In particular, we need to put a much bigger focus on the food service sector and make sure that food with poor standards and low traceability doesn’t creep in through the back door. We’ll be repeating this research and publishing this Index every year to see how we are performing and whether UK consumers are continuing to trust the food we consume.”