The third issue in IGD's Consumer Watch series, published today, researches consumers' views on how safe they think the food we eat is. In a survey of 1,000 consumers, concern about BSE ranked alongside concern about cigarettes but well below road safety, medical negligence and pollution.

The research examined how food safety ranked against other more general worries. Consumers were asked to identify their three main concerns from a prompted list. As can be seen from the graph below, the top three were road safety, medical negligence and pollution. Some way behind, the two main food safety issues were BSE and food poisoning, with GM and food allergies registering with far fewer consumers.

What are your top three concerns?

Source: IGD Consumer Unit

The research indicated that three-quarters (76%) of consumers are relatively to very confident about the safety of food.
BSE was one of the issues we then focused on in more detail. Consumers appeared torn between two extremes of concern about the impact of BSE on food safety.
  1. There was considerable concern about the impact of nvCJD if contracted, they were uncertain how wide this impact might be but believed there was only a tiny probability that they would contract it

  2. Nearly everyone thought that beef now sold in the UK presented minimal risk and most consumers had little "everyday" concern about BSE.
Ultimately, they felt it was too late to do anything about it, so why worry now? As illustrated by this quote from one consumer, "If you are our age, it was in the 80's when you got fed it (beef) from your parents. If you have got it now, you have got it and there is nothing you can do about it."

Anna Dawson, Consumer Research Manager at IGD said, "Consumers are confident about the safety of food. Even after they had spent 1½ hours discussing their individual concerns about specific aspects of food safety, most consumers returned to their initial conclusion that overall their food was safe. This high level of confidence seems to be driven primarily by their own experiences, which for the main had been relatively positive. Two other factors, were also important; their trust in retailers and manufacturers to provide safe food and their expectation that there are controls in place."

  1. IGD is the leading research and education organisation for the food and grocery industry. Its membership is drawn from the total grocery supply chain, including retail, manufacturing, wholesale, distribution, catering, packaging companies and primary producers. IGD also has close links with consumer organisations.
  2. Visit the IGD website at

  3. Consumer Watch is a bi-monthly report examining consumer attitudes to food issues. It is available from IGD at £400 for non-members and £300 for members for the full set. Please contact IGD on 01923 851925 or e-mail:, alternatively, order on line at

  4. Coming soon from Consumer Watch - views on Consumer Choice (December).