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Red Tractor and YouGov report highlights reduced trust in takeaway and restaurant food.

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The UK’s first ever “Trust in Food” Index has been launched by Red Tractor and YouGov, capturing the UK public’s attitudes to food and drink. The research, conducted by YouGov with over 3,500 adults across the UK, found the public overwhelmingly believes that the UK’s food is safe, traceable and good quality. British consumers trust UK food as much as water quality and NHS care, and significantly more than the police, judicial services, and other daily essentials and utilities, such as gas and electricity. One of the main reasons behind the public’s confidence in British food is an implicit trust in the systems of regulation and assurance that exist in the UK. Half (48%) of those surveyed refer to high standards and regulations as the reason they trust food in the UK. Respondents also 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.

Significantly, while 84% of UK consumers trust food from Britain, levels of trust in food from outside the UK vary wildly. Ireland and New Zealand maintain the highest levels of trust 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. Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada lag several of the major EU food producing countries. Just 17% of British consumers trust UK food a little or not at all. Of these, 40% base their criticism on the belief that the food available to them is unhealthy, overly processed or in other ways low quality.

More than twice as many people trust food bought in shops than trust takeaways and deliveries. Consumers’ trust in food ingredients they buy to prepare themselves at home is very high. This is especially the case with food perceived as local, bought in specialist or ‘hyper-local’ shops, which is trusted by more than eight out of ten people. Almost as many people (78%) trust food bought from supermarkets. The level of trust falls slightly for food prepared in restaurants (70%), with much lower trust in food from takeaways and deliveries (37%). The low level of trust in the takeaway sector is especially interesting given the exponential growth of the sector in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.”

Professor Susan Jebb, Chair of the Food Standards Agency, added: “I find it really encouraging to see the results of this poll which reaffirms our knowledge that people have strong levels of trust in UK food. Since its inception over 20 years ago, the FSA has become a highly trusted and independent regulator and we’re proud to support organisations like Red Tractor who have a shared aim of bringing openness and transparency to the food system so that people can have confidence in the food they eat.”

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the House of Commons EFRA Select Committee, said: “As a nation, we take pride in our nutritious home-grown food. This report shows how high trust in our food is, and this is reflective of our famers’ and growers’ commitment to high standards for animal welfare and the environment. 

“It is important that the public’s confidence is maintained, which is why our farming sector must have the full support of the Government in upholding the highest standards while delivering affordable, healthy food. As the Government looks to introduce its new, more environmentally-focussed system of financial support for farmers, it is important that this agricultural transition does not present farmers with a choice between financial stability and high standards.”

For more information visit redtractor.org.uk

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