Leatherhead says action needed to overcome consumers’ meat and fish authenticity doubts

Leatherhead says action needed to overcome consumers’ meat and fish authenticity doubts

Leatherhead Food Research is urging the industry to talk more openly about food fraud prevention strategies after a study revealed up to 43% of consumers are not confident that processed foods contain the meat or fish specified on the label.

Survey respondents were asked to rank their confidence that the meat and fish products they buy actually contain the species indicated on a scale of one to ten, where ten represents ‘completely confident’.

Worst performers

Chilled and frozen ready meals were among the worst performers, scoring 5.6 (meat) and 6.3 (fish). Other processed meat and fish from supermarkets, such as sausages and fish fingers, were ranked at 6.8 and 7.2, respectively.

Unprocessed meat and fish fared best in the survey overall, with supermarkets achieving average confidence ratings of 7.5 (meat) and 7.8 (fish). However, whole meat and fish from local butchers and fishmongers bettered this, each gaining a confidence score of 8.6.

Leatherhead believes that the horsemeat scandal of 2013 could be the root cause of the problem. It may have dented overall consumer confidence and caused long term reputational damage for some players in the sector.

White paper available

Leatherhead has published a White Paper Detecting and Deterring Meat and Fish Adulteration, as a platform from which the industry can seek to rebuild consumer trust. It has also developed an advanced species authenticity testing technology, making it quicker and easier to identify or rule out species adulteration.

“The food industry needs to take a multi-layered approach to address the myriad issues associated with food fraud,” said Dr Monee Shamsher, research scientist at Leatherhead. “Our new species authenticity testing technology puts the power back into the hands of manufacturers and retailers, but it is only one part of the equation. An assertive, proactive and transparent response is required to tackle confidence issues for consumers. That means acknowledging the risk of food fraud, and demonstrating that decisive measures are being taken to combat the problem. Communicating this publically is one way to show consumers that the industry has their best interests at heart, and it could also play a vital role in deterring fraudsters.”

Detecting and Deterring Meat and Fish Adulteration is available to download for free here.

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