British consumers are more worried about what they are eating and what they are feeding their families than they were a year ago, reveals Iceland's second annual review of consumer attitudes to food safety.

The 'Food You Can Trust' 2000 survey, carried out by Mintel International, shows a sharp rise (up 17 per cent to 43 per cent) in public concern surrounding BSE/CJD. This surpasses the 1998 figure* of 37 per cent, when the crisis was at its peak. Findings also show that parents have less confidence in the safety of food than a year ago - more than half of all parents of children under 15 say they are worried about the risks of BSE/CJD - an increase of 19 per cent since last year.

Iceland's study shows there is a growing interest in organic food, with demand for greater choice of organic fruit and vegetables outstripping demand for anything else. In addition to this, 75 per cent of those questioned say they would buy organic food if it wasn't so expensive.

The results are revealed this week as Iceland converts its entire own label range of fresh fruit and vegetables to organic, at no price premium. Fresh produce goes on sale for the first time in 240 stores nation-wide and will be phased into the rest of Iceland's 760 stores during the next 12 months. The move coincides with the arrival in store of its entire range of frozen vegetables which have just been converted to organic.

Iceland has been able to source 50 per cent of its fresh range from the UK, but in order to meet the demand for organic frozen vegetables, the company has secured more than 40 per cent of the world's organic green vegetable production. Around 80 per cent of supply will be sourced overseas as only three per cent of UK agricultural land is organic**. It has invested a total of £9 million in reduced margins to sell organic at conventional prices without pressurising suppliers.

Russell Ford, Iceland's managing director, says: "It's not surprising to see that BSE/CJD is still very much top of the agenda, as there is a serious lack of public confidence in the food industry and those who regulate it. We have worked hard to allay consumer concerns through our 'food you can trust campaign'. Our move towards organic ranges has been backed up by a predicted growth of 53 per cent in the organic market this year and we will continue to look at converting other ranges, including meat, while at the same time continuing our efforts to make sure our organic food is affordable."

The research also shows that more parents are looking at organic alternatives for their children (up 4 per cent to 18 per cent), with concern about artificial additives up two per cent to 29 per cent and a quarter of adults are worried about pesticides in fruit and vegetables (26 per cent).

Concerns about food labelling have also increased slightly since last year's survey, with over half of those questioned (57 per cent) saying they would like food labels to be easier to understand.

For further information:

Jeanette Riley/Hilary Berg
Iceland Press Office
Tel: 01244 842941

Editor's Notes
  • The survey was carried out by Mintel International in August 2000 - exactly 12 months from when Iceland's previous research was carried out, among a demographically representative sample of 2,015 adults.

  • One of the main thrusts of Iceland's food you can trust campaign has focused on meat products and the company has taken further action than is required by law in the UK. Not only does Iceland guarantee that its beef livestock is no more than 30 months old, but it also promises that it is non-GM fed during its fattening phase and is fed a meat and bonemeal-free diet. Further to UK legislation, Iceland also requires suppliers to ensure that feed contains no animal or bird protein (eg blood, meat, bone) animal fat (tallow) or swill. The company also guarantees that only quality cuts of meat are used in its own label products.

  • Iceland was the first food retailer in the country to GM ingredients and derivatives from its own label range in May 1998. It was also the first to remove all artificial colours, flavours and where safe to do so, artificial preservatives, from its entire own label range in October 1999. It has also removed all artificial sweeteners and is now the first supermarket to convert whole ranges of conventional food to organic at no price premium.

  • A report recently published by MAFF shows that in 1999 the pesticides working party found that 27 per cent of food samples analysed for pesticide residues showed measurable residues, with 1.6 per cent over the minimum recommended level.
* Figure taken from Mintel Food Safety Special Report published Feb 1999.
** Soil Association figure