02 September 1997
"Confidence in food at all-time low"

By FWi staff

CONSUMER confidence in the UK food industry is at an all-time low, according to Consumers Association chief executive Sheila McKechnie.

What is needed is a credible Food Standards Agency (FSA) which consumers could have faith in, she said, speaking at the Church House food safety conference today.

Consumers want to be able to go into a restaurant or pick up food from a supermarket, knowing that the product is safe and that, by and large, they can get on with their lives, she went on.

“That is what good government is about, and that is what the Government failed to deliver,” she said, referring to BSE and recent E Coli crises.

Ms McKechnie said consumers would no longer be patronised by the Government and the food industry, adding that the Consumers Association was big enough to carry out its own research into food safety.

When the full extent of the BSE crisis became known, ministers reacted by “running around telling everyone that they were going to eat British beef”, instead of taking appropriate action, she added.

NFU deputy president Tony Pexton commented that, while he supported the establishment of the FSA, he refuted the widely-held belief that consumer confidence in British food was at a low ebb.

He said that, when the BSE crisis hit, sales of beef slumped, but sales of meat overall remained steady – meaning consumers just switched products.

Beef sales were now back to pre-BSE levels, he added, and the fact that two major buyers – McDonalds and Burger King – had put British beef back on their menus indicated strong support for the UK food industry.

  • Watch FWi for further reports from the food safety conference