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People buying fewer frozen burgers after horse meat scandal

The Food Safety Authority said that people are spending more time reading labels after the scandal.

A frozen burger
A frozen burger

CONSUMERS ARE BUYING fewer frozen burgers after the horse meat scandal, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has said.

The FSAI has published research into the impact of the horse meat contamination issue on Irish consumer confidence and trust in the food they purchase. It is six months since it emerged that some Irish beef products contained horse DNA, which led on to a Europe-wide investigation into the issue.

It said that the issue has resulted in a marked increase in awareness around food safety, with 50 per cent of respondents saying they are now more conscious about food safety issues in general.

Plus, people are spending more time reading labels when buying food.

Purchasing habits

The survey also shows that over half (51 per cent) of people who purchased frozen burgers in the past are now buying less of these products. However, 48 per cent of people buy the same amount.

Virtually all adults in the country (98 per cent) said they were aware of the horse meat issue, with almost three quarters (72 per cent) said they have confidence in Irish food safety controls and regulations. Just 13 per cent were not confident.

In addition, 45 per cent of consumers said they now spend more time reading labels on food products.

When it comes to ingredients, over half (53 per cent) said they are now more conscious of the ingredients that go into manufactured food products, while 56 per cent said they are more conscious about the country of origin of food.

Of the people who bought processed foods containing meat in the past, 42 per cent say they now buy less of these products. However, 56 per cent continue to buy the same amount.

When it comes to fresh burgers, the situation was slightly different – 69 per cent said they buy the same amount as before, while 16 per cent buy less, and 15 per cent buy more.

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Almost two out of every five people who consume meat said they were concerned as the issue unfolded, while 61 per cent were unconcerned.

The people who said they were concerned gave these reasons:

  • Concern about what else might be unknowingly in other meat products (88 per cent)
  • Concern about the presence of chemicals, medicines and antibiotics (86 per cent)
  • Concern about food safety (83 per cent) and possible health risks (76 per cent)
  • Repulsion by the idea of eating horse meat (55 per cent)

Professor Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI said that the horse meat scandal “has changed the way people in Ireland view the foods they purchase and consume”.

When buying processed foods, people are not in a position to identify what raw materials are used and, therefore, they rely on labelling as their only source of information. They are in effect putting their trust in the hands of manufacturers and retailers who have a legal obligation to ensure that all ingredients in their products are correctly labelled.

He added that a “key lesson” for food businesses is that they must have robust supplier controls in place at all times to ensure that they know who is supplying them and that all products and ingredients are authentic.

Purchasing raw materials on face value is a high risk strategy for food processors. Progress has already been made with enhanced controls and sophisticated tools such as DNA testing now being a part of the food safety armoury. Given the added controls now in place, I believe that the eventual outcome of this food fraud scandal will be a positive one for consumers.

The FSAI will continue its routine monitoring and surveillance programmes on foods on the Irish market to ensure that they are complying with the requirements of food law and that they are safe to eat.

Read: Horsemeat scandal: Dept refuses to release over 200 pages of emails with FSAI>

Poll: Are you still happy to eat Irish beef?>

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