Country of origin not prime concern to shoppers

Country of origin is still not a prime concern for shoppers, according to research from the Food Standards Agency.

The FSA commissioned a package of research to find out more about how people understand and use food labels, including “country of origin” labels.

It says the results will help to inform discussions about a European proposal on food labelling.

A range of methods were used to investigate consumer attitudes, including questionnaires, group discussions and innovative eye-tracking technology that looks at people’s behaviour in real life situations.

It found there is awareness of “origin labelling”, but it is not a main concern for consumers when shopping.

When asked on which foods they would like to see origin labelling, people most frequently mentioned meat and meat products

Price and food safety information on labels were considered by consumers to be, on the whole, more important than country of origin labelling

Consumers who felt the origin of their food was important said they are willing to pay a small amount more for their goods.

However, consumers are confused about whether “country of origin” refers to where animals are born, raised or slaughtered or whether this refers to where a food product has been produced

Tim Smith, chief executive of the FSA, said: “This research shows that even though “country of origin” isn’t a top priority for consumers, confusion remains over what “Produced in the UK” actually means.

“The issue is not about more origin labelling but the need for greater clarity on the labels on some of our most popular foods.

“European labelling rules being proposed will require businesses that make origin claims to provide further information, so that people will know where their food actually comes from, not just where it was processed.

“We will use the results of this research to inform our discussions in Brussels.”

78% of meat and meat products now carry a country of origin statement, compared with 69% in 2005.

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