15 February 2000
Buy British? Most shoppers don’t care

By FWi staff

BARELY one in ten consumers are bothered whether their supermarket purchases are British, new surveys for the ministry of agriculture reveal.

Two independent surveys undertaken for MAFF discovered that only 11% of shoppers took into account the country from where their purchases originate.

Farmers leaders who have campaigned for better labelling to highlight British produce will be disappointed with these findings.

And the results cast doubt on the value of Tony Blairs pledge earlier this month to tighten pigmeat labelling.

Under new regulations, it will no longer be possible to pass off foreign pigmeat sold in supermarkets simply because it was processed in this country.

Although at the time this was seen as a concession to struggling pig farmers, the findings for Mr Blairs own government question its significance.

The National Farmers Union has been campaigning for the introduction of a kitemark for British quality produce.

A spokesman said: “We never feel that it is enough to wrap ourselves in the Union Jack.

“We recognise that we must go beyond patriotism and emphasise the quality and welfare standards of British produce.

“Its part of our goal to persuade people that buying British is important.

“If only 11% of people feel that is the case, then thats sad and means there is more work to be done.”

The research also reveals that 75% of consumers find the terms “fresh”, “natural” and “pure” misleading, around 50% want more information on labelling and the same number have difficulty finding information

Some 68% of shoppers look at labels before buying food, and around 43% are interested in its composition.

Just over three-quarters claimed it was the quality of food they took into account when buying a product, while 73% considered the price.

Fewer than half the respondents took notice of how healthy the food was.

Junior agriculture minister Baroness Hayman, who last month launched a better labelling initiative said: “This independent research shows how important labels are.

“Most people say they use food labels to help them make choices when shopping.”

Meanwhile, the GB Choice group, which is campaigning for clear labelling on British produce, is launching its own proposed logo in Bristol on Saturday (19 February).

The group, founded after the suicide of a beef farmer, will accompany the launch with an appeal song and take its message to Safeway stores across the country.