Frozen burgers off the menu as consumers react to horsemeat scandal
THE horsemeat scandal has hit consumer confidence with more than half of people who purchased frozen burgers in the past now buying less of these products.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today published research into the impact of the horse meat contamination issue, with almost three quarters (72pc) stating they have confidence in Irish food safety controls and regulations. Just 13pc were not confident, while 15pc were not sure.
“Overall, the issue has resulted in a marked increase in awareness around food safety, with 50% of respondents saying they are now more conscious about food safety issues in general,” the FSAI said in a statement.
“Looking at the implications of the issue for consumer purchasing behaviour, 45pc of consumers say they now spend more time reading labels on food products. Over half (53pc) say they are now more conscious of the ingredients that go into manufactured food products, while 56pc say they are more conscious about the country of origin of food products.”
Of those who bought processed foods containing meat in the past – such as lasagne or shepherd’s pie – 42pc say they now buy less of these products, while 56pc continue to buy the same amount. Buying habits were broadly unchanged for fresh burgers.
Almost two out of every five (39pc) of those who consume meat say they were concerned as the issue unfolded, while 61pc were unconcerned
Commenting on the research findings, Prof. Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI said: “It is six months since the FSAI uncovered what would eventually transpire to be a pan-European problem of adulterated beef products across almost all Members States. Understandably, the issue has given rise to widespread debate about food safety and labelling and this has changed the way people in Ireland view the foods they purchase and consume. When buying processed foods, people are not in a position to identify what raw materials are used and, therefore, they rely on labelling as their only source of information. They are in effect putting their trust in the hands of manufacturers and retailers who have a legal obligation to ensure that all ingredients in their products are correctly labelled.”
“A key lesson for food businesses is that they must have robust supplier controls in place at all times to ensure that they know who is supplying them and that all products and all ingredients are authentic. Purchasing raw materials on face value is a high risk strategy for food processors. Progress has already been made with enhanced controls and sophisticated tools such as DNA testing now being a part of the food safety armoury,” said Prof. Reilly. “Given the added controls now in place, I believe that the eventual outcome of this food fraud scandal will be a positive one for consumers.”