Red Tractor and YouGov have launched their “Trust in Food” Index, which aims to capture the UK public’s attitudes to food and drink.

The research, which surveyed over 3,500 adults across the UK, found the public overwhelmingly believes that the UK’s food is “safe, traceable and good quality.” The new report also found that British consumers trust UK food as much as water quality and NHS care, and significantly more than the police, judicial services, and other daily essentials and utilities, such as gas and electricity.

According to the data, one of the main reasons behind the public’s confidence in British food is an implicit trust in the systems of regulation and assurance that exist in the UK. Half (48%) of those surveyed refer to high standards and regulations as the reason they trust food in the UK. Respondents also felt that inspection and assurance schemes such as British Lion and Red Tractor (70%) play a greater role than the government (64%) in ensuring that the UK’s food is “safe and of good quality.”

Just 17% of British consumers trust UK food “a little or not at all.” Of these, 40% based their criticism on the belief that the food available to them is “unhealthy, overly processed or in other ways low quality.”

The report also found that levels of trust in food from outside the UK vary wildly. Ireland and New Zealand maintain the highest levels of trust amongst UK consumers, followed by leading EU food producers such as Sweden, Germany, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands. Only 25% of Brits trust food from the USA and just 11% trust food from China.

Other findings from the report include:

  • More than twice as many people trust food bought in shops than trust takeaways and deliveries
  • Consumers’ trust in food ingredients they buy to prepare themselves at home is “very high”. This is especially the case with food perceived as local, bought in specialist or ‘hyper-local’ shops, which is trusted by more than eight out of ten people
  • The level of trust falls slightly for food prepared in restaurants (70%).

“A testament to the strength of our food standards”

Christine Tacon, chair, Red Tractor, said: “The most important finding in this report isn’t simply that most people trust the food they buy in the UK. It’s the reason why. By far the biggest reason why people trust food here in the UK is the strength of our food standards and our independent assurance schemes.”

Professor Susan Jebb, chair of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), added: “I find it really encouraging to see the results of this poll which reaffirms our knowledge that people have strong levels of trust in UK food.” She added that the FSA is proud to support organisations like Red Tractor, which “have a shared aim of bringing openness and transparency to the food system so that people can have confidence in the food they eat.”