NFU Mutual’s 2017 Food Fraud Report found that 42% of people felt that takeaways were the least trustworthy with just 15% of those surveyed ranking restaurants as the least trustworthy.
72% of people believe there is an issue with food fraud in the UK. The insurers research shows that the foods most common for consumers to lack confidence in are those claiming to be ‘light or diet’ (23%), sugar free (20%), foods claiming to be ‘handmade’ (18%), ‘natural’ (15%), organic (12%), ‘free from’ (9%), and halal (9%).
For the purpose of the research, food fraud was defined as the “deliberate and intentional substitutions, addition, tampering with or misrepresentation of food, ingredients or packaging at some stage of the product’s distribution cycle”. It also means false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.
High profile cases of fraudulent food in the media, such as 2013’s horse meat scandal were shown to still be harming consumer confidence in the food chain. Nearly half of consumers (46%) cited these as their main cause for their decline in trust in the food distribution cycle, despite the efforts of the Food Crime Unit, set up in the wake of the scandal.
The Food Crime Unit found scams comprising lamb takeaways in which the lamb had been replaced with cheaper meats, olive oils contaminated with unlisted colourings and flavourings, fake vodka containing toxic levels of methanol, and offal taken from slaughterhouses to be used in pet food being diverted for use in catering at big events.
Researchers at Salford, Bristol and Exeter universities investigated seafood at 31 sushi bars and restaurants across England, and found that 1 in 10 fish dishes contains critically endangered fish species, and are incorrectly labelled.
“Hospitality businesses are at the end of a long food chain. Brands, large and small could face reputational risks, either locally or nationally from food fraud,” says Dr Lisa Ackerley, food safety adviser at The British Hospitality Association. “Maintaining consumer trust is paramount and the findings of this survey help us to understand what industry can do to improve fraud resilience programmes and reassure the consumer.”