The seventh Food Standards Agency (FSA) English Regions Consumer Attitudes to Food Survey, published yesterday (22 February), has revealed that healthy eating is a key concern for consumers, with many people checking labels for nutritional information on a regular basis, as well as an increasing awareness of five-a-day messaging.
 
The 2006 survey points to a significant increase in the number of consumers who are aware that they should eat at least five portions of fruit or vegetables each day, the FSA said.
 
Interestingly, it also reveals that consumers across the regions are significantly more likely than those in London to claim to have a greater knowledge of the five-a-day message.
 
Almost half of UK consumers claim to be trying to increase their consumption of fresh fruit and almost two fifths of UK respondents were similarly trying to increase the amount of vegetables they eat. Regionally, respondents in London and the South West were more likely to try and eat more fruit and vegetables, the survey said.
 
Nationwide, the amount of salt, fat and sugar present in food continues to be a key issue of concern for consumers, the survey showed, while all regions showed a similar level of concern about fat. Consumers in the West Midlands and the South East expressed higher levels of concern about salt, while those in Yorkshire, Humberside, and East England had the greatest concern over the amount of sugar in food.
 
Just over half of consumers nationwide said that they usually or always looked at food labels when purchasing a product for the first time, but the FSA survey found that consumers in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside were most likely never to look at labels when buying items for the first time.
 
More than half of consumers from the majority of regions agreed that they would like more information about the food that they buy, and almost half said they found it difficult to know if a product is healthy from the label.

"It's encouraging that year-on-year this survey of over 3,500 consumers shows a growing awareness about healthy eating messages regarding salt, fat and sugar and about eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and veg a day," said Gill Fine, director of consumer choice and dietary health at the FSA. "The number of people who say they are trying to eat more fruit and vegetables and checking their food labels for nutrition information, shows a marked increase since the Agency first began these surveys in 2000."