Consumer trust in the UK food sector is declining as it emerges fraud is costing the industry £12bn a year, according to a report.
The NFU Mutual Food Fraud Report 2017 revealed that almost three quarters of consumers believe the UK suffers food fraud issues and one fifth would blame the retailer first.
Over 2,000 people were surveyed for the study and one third admitted trusting products and retailers less than they did five years ago.
Frank Woods, retail specialist at NFU Mutual said: “The UK food and drink industry could be losing up to £12bn annually to fraud, entering the food chain through means including falsified or inaccurate documentation and redirection of waste products back into the supply chain or re-dating of stock.”
He added that this behaviour threatens the reputation of thousands of honest businesses relying on lawfulness within the global food chain.
“Retailers could be impacted as producers are under immense pressure to offset price rises caused by the weakened value of sterling and higher import costs, squeezing already tight budgets and resources and potentially cornering them into using cheaper global suppliers that may be more vulnerable to fraud.”
Just 38% of consumers have confidence in the British supply chain but it still fares well against trust in European and global supply chains, which sits at 12% and 7% respectively.
With Brexit looming the report advises retailers to keep on top of the latest information and equip themselves appropriately.
Almost half of consumers said high profile cases of fraudulent food, like the horsemeat scandal, are big reasons for reduced confidence. The 2013 affair involved a London sausagemaker passing off 30 tons of horsemeat as pure beef.
Influencers play a big role in consumer decision-making and two thirds say food assurance stamps impact purchasing choices. The Fair Trade stamp carried the most clout with 44% stating its importance.
The survey defines food fraud as the deliberate tampering and misrepresentation of food, ingredients or packaging at any point of the distribution cycle. False or misleading statements are categorised under the same term.
The report outlines advice to help retailers combat fraud and perception, including implementing awareness and prevention programmes across all supply levels, keeping on top of information about fraud and regularly testing supplier products.
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