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UK: Only 1 in 3 trust Government on food safety

Only 1 in 3 people trust the Government to make sure food is safe to eat, according to a new report from NatCen's British Social Attitudes survey, which uncovers for the first time who the British public trust when it comes to the food supply chain.

Just 33% of people said they trust the Government “a great deal” or “quite a lot” to make sure that food is safe to eat, while a similar proportion (34%) said they trusted supermarkets. 29% said they do not trust the Government “very much” or “at all”, whilst 26% said this about supermarkets.

By contrast, 68% said they trust food inspectors “a great deal” or “quite a lot” to make sure food is safe to eat, and 58% said they trust farmers. The proportion who said they did not trust these organisations “very much” or “at all” was just 7% and 9% respectively.

NatCen’s survey also revealed that just over half of people (58%) were sure that food from Britain was prepared to the highest quality standards. Less than a quarter (23%) who thought this about food from abroad.

Healthiness more important than cost for shoppers
When choosing what food to buy, health matters more than having low-cost food. 83% said that it matters “a great deal” or “quite a lot” that the food they buy is healthy, but less than half (47%) said that it matters that the cost of their food is low.

Majorities of the public also said that it matters that food has not gone through a lot of processing (69%) and that the farmer or grower has been paid a fair price (58%). However, just 35% thought it mattered that the food was grown locally. Women and older people were more likely to say these issues mattered to them.

Caireen Roberts, Research Director at NatCen Social Research said: "Today's report tells us whether the food supply matters to the British public when they’re buying food, and which organisations involved in the food chain they trust. Healthiness of food is clearly an important issue when buying food, more so than considerations around the origin and cost. While confidence in the quality of food produced in Britain was just over 50%, it was higher than levels of confidence in imported food and we also saw low levels of trust in the government, supermarkets and food manufacturers. This may be because these organisations are viewed as being motivated by profit either directly or indirectly or it may be the result of previous food scares. Further research will be needed to see whether the public’s attitudes change over the coming years."

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