Consumer Confidence: Apples beat hamburgers in race for European hearts
Fruit and vegetables emerged as clear winners
in the European trust stakes, while consumers regarded the health and safety of junk
food and meat products with the most scepticism, a recent six-nation survey has revealed.
Perhaps as a reflection of growing public health
awareness and rising concern across Europe and the industrial
world about obesity, a recent survey found that European consumers
trust fruit and vegetable the most and junk food the least.
Less than one fifth of respondents said they trusted the quality
of hamburgers from fast-food outlets and meals in restaurants.
Conducted as part of the three-year EU-backed
'Trust in food' project, the survey canvassed the views of
nearly 9 000 consumers in six European countries: Denmark,
Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.
The study discovered that consumer trust was highest in northern
Europe and lowest in the south, with the UK topping the league
and Portugal propping up the bottom of the table.
Given the number of food scares - such as Mad
Cow Disease and Foot and Mouth - the UK has seen in recent
years, the high level of trust among British consumers may
strike many as surprising. "[This] should be understood as
a positive response to the measures taken in the wake of the
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic and other
food scares," the study points out.
From plate to the farm gate
The survey uncovered a pervasive lack of faith among
European consumers in the food they consumed. Up to a third
of respondents felt that the taste and quality, nutritional
value and safety of food have deteriorated over time. Italian
and Portuguese consumers displayed the highest level of pessimism,
with 60-80% believing that food prices, taste and quality
have worsened over the past 20 years.
Less than one in ten consumers expressed trust
in the food processing industry to tell the truth in the case
of a food scare. About 10% trusted supermarket chains and
14% trusted farmers. Consumers put the most faith in consumer
organisations, food experts and governmental bodies.
In order to help rebuild consumer confidence,
the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)
is taking a retrogressive 'farm to fork' approach to the food
production chain. "Today, consumers expect healthy and safe
food and increasingly demand to know where their food comes
from," said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin
on the occasion of the report's release.
"Food production must meet consumers' expectations
as well as environmental, health and competitiveness objectives.
This requires an ambitious research agenda with strong public-private
co-operation at the European level," he added. FP6 has earmarked
685 million for research into food quality and safety.
Source: EU sources
quality and safety under FP6