CONSUMERS (general)





*      Food Safety and Consumer’s Concerns

*      Consumer Trends and Food Issues    

*      Future Challenges                                                      



Why are consumers currently so concerned about food and food safety?


A few good reasons:


Food safety (BSE, Mycotoxins, etc

*   Increase in food poisoning

*   Genetic modification

*   Impacts on health – good and bad

*   Residues: pesticides, vet. Drugs

*   Increase in food allergies

*   Environmental contamination

*   Food and farming issues

*   Environmental and sustainability issues

*   Social justice and fair trade issues – ‘food ethics’

*   Lack of trust in the food industry

*   Animal welfare concerns

*   Origin and traceability

*   Globalisation – ‘big’ business interest

*   The ‘real’ cost of food production and who pays if things go wrong


Food Safety Consumer Concerns:


*   Consumers expect food to be safe

*   Safe food is a basic consumer right

*   Food safety cannot be compromised

*   What level of risk is acceptable?

*   Who decides what is ‘safe’?

*   Can we afford ‘safer’ food?

*   Are we prepared to pay for it?




Food Safety Scare or Reality


*   Food poisoning incidence

*   BSE or vCJD

*   Contaminants e.g. dioxins, residues

*   Antibiotic resistance

*   Food allergies

*   Genetic modification of foods



What about the risk?

*   Short or long term

*   What is an acceptable level of risk?

*   Who makes these decisions?

*   What if the experts don’t agree?…..

*   ….and/or consumers don’t agree?

*   Can consumers protect themselves against food safety risks?

*   What happens when the level of risk is unacceptable?


Consumer trust


In the UK and Europe there is lack of consumer confidence and trust in:

*   food safety

*   food producers inc. farmers

*   regulators and enforcers

*   policy makers

*   Government departments

*   new technologies






Key consumer questions:

Is beef safe to eat?


*   Should I stop eating beef now?

*   What about other meats – lamb/turkey/

*   Chicken?

*   How do I decide what the risks are ?

*   Who do I trust to inform me?


If I cannot protect myself……….


*   Who is protecting me?

*   How are they doing it?

*   Are the controls effective?

*   Can I trust the controls and information?

*   Can I really trust others to ensure that I am protected?

*   If not, what is my responsibility to protect myself?

*   Can I understand the risks and am prepared to take them?




*   Consumers are confused about what is safe to eat

*   Consumers are not and have not been adequately protected from unsafe food

*   Consumers now questioning how food is produced





*   Consumers aware that there are many‘UNKNOWNS’ about food safety e.g.

BSE and vCJD


*   As a consequence PRECAUTIONARY ACTIONS MUST be taken


*   Public health interests must always be placed above trade interests


*   More research is needed for all to be better informed


*   Communications must be clear, open timely – no secrets


*   TRUST should be established in communicators, regulators, enforcers


*   Things might change as more is known, which will need further communication and information




From the consumer’s perspective:


*   Precautionary measures are paramount

*   Controls measures fully enforced – 100%

*   Better surveillance and compliance

*   Education and information essential




Consumer information:


*   Consumers want to know more about the origin of foods especially meat to make informed choices – country of origin, etc - full information should be available for ALL types of products – not only fresh meat

*  Current knowledge explained clearly, uncertainties and risks communicated, including public health measures

*   Learn from the lessons in the UK and BSE




Lessons to be learned from BSE


Vol. 1 Ch. 14:  BSE Inquiry, Phillips Report


*   Everyone agreed that the Government had a problem with credibility


*   …. A policy of openness is the correct approach


*   ….The Government must resist the temptation of attempting to appear to have all the answers in a situation of uncertainty


*   ….food scares…thrive on a belief that the Government is withholding information


*   If doubts are openly expressed and publicly explored, the public are capable of responding rationally


*   …. And are more likely to accept reassurance and advice if, and when, it comes


*   To establish credibility it is necessary to generate trust – Trust can only be generated by openness


*   Openness requires recognition of uncertainty, where it exists


*   The importance of precautionary measures should not be played down on the grounds that the risk is unproved


*   The public should be trusted to respond rationally to openness


*   Scientific investigation of risk should be open and transparent


*   The advice and the reasoning of (advisory) committees should be made public




The Risk Analysis Process


*       Risk assessment should involve and make explicit the ‘up stream’ non scientific assumptions used in framing any assessment


*       Policy makers need to take into account broader economic, political, social and ethical considerations


*       Engage the public/stakeholders in dialogue at all stages in an open transparent manner


*       Explain the trade-offs, how decisions are made an on what basis – benefits of reducing possible risks and costs of interventions


*       Policy makers need to make explicit their reasoning and assumptions behind decision-making


*       Transparency, consultation and communication are key throughout the process – not only at the end of the process


*       Where policy is changed or, in an emergency – explain the action to ensure compliance and understanding of the new actions required


*       Consumers health is at risk (from BSE and other food safety problems)


*       The extent of some risks is not known nor quantifiable


*       Explain what is know and what is not known and whey these difference exist


*       Ensure the highest level of precaution is employed, proportionate to the risks and explain this


*       Trust consumers with all the information to make informed decisions (or not – as they wish)


*       Ensure that consumers are involved at all stages of the risk analysis process – not merely communicated the policies at the end of the process


*       Breakdown the barriers between consumers, scientists, regulators, enforces and trade interests


*       Investments in food safety and quality pay dividends in the long run!




Consumer trends


*   Safe

*   Healthy

*   Nutritious

*   Natural

*   Fresh

*   Wholesome

*   Functional

*   Convenient

*   Fast

*   Fresher – for longer

*   Good Value for money

*   High quality

*   Authentic

*   Tasty

*   With integrity

*   Unprocessed

*   Organic

*   Clean and Green

*   Local

*   Exotic





To provide consumers with safe foods



          *       Of the quality and quantity they want,

          *       at a price they are willing to pay,

          *       when, and where they want to buy it!



*       Food producers and retailers need to be able to adapt, to respond to (and predict) consumer trends

*       To communicate with consumes about how food is produced

*       To demonstrate and deliver consistent food safety and quality

*       Spending on food (as part of the family budget is reducing)

*       More food is eaten away from home

*       Traditional markets are changing rapidly

*       Competition is fierce from domestic and foreign producers


Challenges – The Future……………..


Food Safety, trade regulations and agricultural policies must be able to meet these challenges


Gain and maintain consumer confidence – if lost it is not easy to restore


Food Safety and Consumer Interests must come first


-  good for consumers and good for business!