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Page last update: 25/12/2008

Survey, 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
More Information:
Commission press release
Trust in Food
Food quality and safety under FP6

Last update: 25 December 2008 | Top