Price is top of the shopping list for nearly half of all consumers when it comes to buying groceries – and two out of three people have confidence in current food safety measures, according to a food concerns opinion poll published today at

In the poll, carried out last month for the Food Standards Agency, more than 1,000 people were asked to list, off the top of their heads, what most influenced their grocery shopping – price was way ahead of any other factors. This was consistent across all social groups and was particularly key for those aged between 35 and 44 years, 57% of whom said price influenced them the most.

The top five factors listed by those questioned for the poll were:

  • Price (46%)
  • Taste (18%)
  • Quality (17%)
  • Personal and family health (12%)
  • Production method – organic, free range (10%)

The poll also showed that while the majority of people were concerned about food production – with how animals are treated being the main issue within that – two thirds were either very or fairly confident about the current food safety measures.

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The Food Standards Agency is also launching a new website today to enable consumers to give their views on food and food production. These will be used by the Agency when it makes its submission to the Policy Commission on Food and Farming (PCFF), set up by the Government to look at the future of farming and food production.

Food Standards Agency deputy chair, Suzi Leather, said:

“This opinion poll is one of many tools the Food Standards Agency is using to find out what consumers want and what they really think about their food from farm to fork. The Agency has an important role to play in the forthcoming debate on the future of food and farming in the UK. We want to encourage consumers to give their views in a direct debate. One of the ways they can do this is through our talkfood website and by coming to public meetings throughout the country.”

The research showed that supermarkets ranked number one in the league table of where consumers currently buy their food with a further two per cent, who don’t currently use supermarkets, saying they would like to do so. The survey showed:

  • 95% of people shop for food at supermarkets;
  • 36% of people use their local shop to buy groceries;
  • 13% of people shop for groceries at farmers markets.

Those questioned were also asked to rate a series of factors on an importance scale. The survey showed that the following factors were either very or quite important to most people.

  • Personal and family health (98%)
  • Taste (97%)
  • Food safety concerns (93%)
  • Conditions in which animals are raised (88%)
  • Environmental concerns (88%)
  • Price (82%)
  • Appearance (78%)
  • Locally produced food (65%)
  • Production method (62%)
    Seasonal choices (56%)

  • Country of origin (52%)
  • Brand name (41%)

People were also asked how concerned they were about the way in which food was produced. Those who were either very or fairly concerned (77%) were asked, unprompted, to list the factors they were concerned about. The results were as follows:

  • How animals are treated and raised (23%)
  • Chemicals and preservatives (18%)
  • Genetically modified foods (11%)
  • Cleanliness/hygiene (10%)
  • Mass production/should be free range (8%)

The Food Standards Agency is also supporting a number of regional seminars this month, organised by the Regional Development Agencies and Regional Food Task Forces. The events will give local people a chance to have their say in person and further help the Agency with its response to the PCFF. The seminars are taking place in the follow towns/cities on the following dates.

13 October Newcastle – Swallow Imperial Hotel, Jesmond Road, Newcastle
15 October Chatham – The Observatory, Brunel, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4NT
15 October Kendall – Kendall Town Hall, Stricklandgate, Kendall
18 October Manchester – The Mechanics Centre, Princess Street, Manchester
18 October Exeter – Darts Farm Shopping Village, Topsham, nr Exeter
20 October Durham – Durham Marriott Hotel, Royal County, Old Elvet, Durham City, DH1 3JN

Notes to editors:

  1. COI Communications commissioned Taylor Nelson Sofres Phonebus to undertake this research, about attitudes towards buying food and food concerns among the public, for the Food Standards Agency. Interviews were conducted, as part of a telephone omnibus survey, on the 15th and 16th of September 2001. A total sample of 1003 interviews was achieved with the general public in Great Britain. A copy of the questions and results of the opinion poll is attached.

  1. The address of the Agency’s new interactive website for people to put forward views to be fed into the Agency’s input to the Policy Commission on Farming and Food is:

  1. The Policy Commission on Farming and Food was announced by the Government on 9 August. It is being run by the Cabinet Office and will report to the Prime Minister at the end of the year. It has been commissioned to advise the Government on how to create a sustainable, competitive and diverse farming and food sector within a thriving rural economy which puts environmental, public health and animal welfare at the top.

  1. For further information about the regional seminars people should contact the relevant Regional Development Agencies and Food Task Forces on the following numbers:

    1. Newcastle/Durham – One North East, Mike Barton: 01704 225573

    2. Chatham – SEEDA, Sally Coyne: 01634 899 910

    3. Kendall/Manchester – North West Food and Health Task Force, Angela Towers: 0151 231 4145

    4. Exeter – Taste of the South West, Julie Harvey: 01392 440 745