A survey of consumers in Europe and the United Kingdom has revealed a decrease in trust in the food sector but a high level of confidence in safety.

The Trust Report surveyed 19,642 people from 18 countries on their level of trust in the food system and found that less than half of consumers have trust in food. Work was conducted by Ipsos in August and September 2023 and included people in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the UK.

The latest EIT Food Trust Report, now in its sixth year, showed that 45 percent of Europeans have trust in food, related to the taste, safety, health, authenticity, and sustainability of the food system.

EIT Food is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

Support for safety

The study showed that consumers are mostly confident that the food they eat is safe at 53 percent and 42 percent believe food is authentic.

The survey found consumers do not worry about food safety in their day-to-day purchases and are generally confident in the quality of food and the way this is checked.

Durk Bosma, head of thought leadership at the Future of Food Institute, said these findings were expected and in line with previous years.

“There is another group who gives a neutral answer to the question about food safety. The group that considers food unsafe is 23 percent. And even for this group, it doesn’t lead to worrying in daily purchases. We can interpret their answers as ‘not all food is safe’, not as ‘all food is unsafe’.”

For authenticity, 31 percent didn’t believe food was authentic and 26 percent were neutral.

The report suggests that people cannot determine authenticity themselves and must rely on other information, such as packaging and labels. Since this information and the parties providing it are not broadly trusted, confidence can be low. 

A 2022 Eurobarometer on food safety in the EU revealed that almost half considered food safety important and 41 percent took it for granted that the food they buy was safe.

A trust issue

The EIT Food survey demonstrated a decline in consumer trust in the overall food sector, in terms of the competency, openness, and care of actors such as farmers, manufacturers, authorities, restaurants, and retailers.

Farmers remain the most trusted group, with 65 percent of consumers expressing trust in them. This is down from 67 percent in the previous year.

Retailers are the second most trusted group, with half of consumers reporting trust in this sector and restaurants and caterers scored 48 percent.

Less than half of respondents trust food manufacturers or authorities such as government agencies at national and EU level while 27 percent and 32 percent respectively actively mistrust them.

Consumers generally trust European manufacturers to bring safe foods to the market and that the EU has strict regulations that producers must follow. People understand that authorities have the final responsibility on whether food is safe.

The 2022 Eurobarometer survey found 8 in 10 trusted scientists for food safety information and trust in national and EU institutions was at about two-thirds.

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