There has been a shift in consumer confidence around food safety and hygiene because of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom, according to a survey.

Findings show increased consciousness of food safety and hygiene when eating out, according to the BSI (British Standards Institution).

Polling of 2,182 UK adults online by YouGov for BSI after the Government’s Eat out To Help Out program, found that more than half of consumers say they have become more conscious of food safety and hygiene at food outlets since the pandemic began. This program ran in August and provided reductions on the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks eaten-in at participating businesses.

Pubs, chain restaurants, and independent coffee shops and restaurants were the places that respondents were most concerned about. These sites have been allowed to reopen outdoors in the past week.

Confidence issue
More than three quarters of those surveyed said a lack of confidence in an outlet’s hygiene would stop them eating there, and 65 percent said they would avoid eating at a place if they were not confident in food safety standards of the premises.

Respondents welcomed an assessment of the site by third party providers as something that would help re-establish their confidence.

A third of people who eat out or have food delivered said they would find a venue’s declaration of their COVID-safe measures reassuring. More than half reported that certification by a third-party provider would increase their trust, and 54 percent said a “BSI Kitemark” would help rebuild their confidence in hygiene and food safety standards.

Richard Werran, EMEA director for food and retail supply chain at BSI, said most organizations are taking great care in preparations and will do their utmost to ensure staff and customers are safe.

“We’d encourage all food service organizations to lean heavily on best practice guidance and instill a robust food safety culture. In line with BSI’s hygienic certification program, I’d advise undertaking a deep clean, not just in food preparation areas but also cleaning and servicing all appliances and dispensers, looking for any pest ingress. This will demonstrate a commitment to putting the health of colleagues and customers first, providing consumers with much needed reassurance,” he said.

Plant-based alternative concerns
Meanwhile, another survey by nutrition company Kerry found that public concern with the safety of food is escalating, impacted by COVID-19 highlighting the complex nature of global food supply chains.

Results of research on North American consumer attitudes, revealed fresh meat remains the primary product for public safety worries, with two thirds citing it as their number one food category of concern.

About half of consumers have questions about the safety of plant-based meat alternatives and are concerned with plant-based dairy alternatives. Food safety in the plant-based meat space is not yet as highly regulated as conventional production, said Kerry.

“Due to the wide range of substrates used, plant-based meats may have diverse susceptibility to microbial spoilage. Like their meat-based counterparts, they are near neutral in pH, high in protein and moisture content so it is imperative that appropriate microbiological control mechanisms are put in place,” according to the company.

Neil Cracknell, president and CEO of Applied Health and Nutrition at Kerry, said that COVID-19 has accelerated an underlying trend of consumer attention to food safety.

“Consumers want reassurance from the food industry on how the food has been sourced, how it has been produced and how it has been protected, both from a microbiological perspective and increasingly from a physical perspective,” he said.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)