Consumer confidence in UK food safety is recovering from the low levels recorded immediately after last year’s Sudan 1 food scare.

The number of UK adults less confident about food safety standards in supermarkets since the February 2005 Sudan 1 related recall is down to 12%, compared with 27% immediately after the recall, according to a survey conducted by management consultancy Razor.

Razor managing director, and risk communications specialist, Chris Woodcock, said: “This result is partly a reward for the hard work undertaken by manufacturers, retailers, legislators and trade organisations to rebuild the food industry’s reputation over the last year.
“However, food companies and retailers should take consumer distrust seriously.” 

Woodcock also said the recent disagreement over labelling between the Food Standards Agency and a breakaway group of manufacturers does not send a clear message to the consumer.

She added: “Other issues, such as avian influenza, have risen up the agenda. The threat of bird flu has already seen one restaurant take wild fowl off the menu and the McDonald’s chain has admitted it has emergency contingency plans in place to replace all chicken products on its menus. In this context it is vital that the food industry ensures its crisis and business continuity plans are up to date.”

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The survey also highlighted the growing trend away from processed foods, with 24% of householders saying they bought fewer ready meals and pre-packaged foods over the last year and 24% of consumers saying they bought more fresh, non-processed foods.

Woodcock said: “The public are bombarded with information relating to food – from Jamie Oliver to Prince Charles and the Daily Mail. It is vital that the food industry takes an increasingly responsible lead with proactive communication to demonstrate ultra-transparency and to help consumers make informed choices.”