British shoppers saying nay to meat after horse scandal

Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:30pm EST
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By Clare Hutchison and Alice Baghdjian

LONDON (Reuters) - The discovery of horsemeat in products sold as beef has shocked many British consumers into buying less meat, a survey showed on Monday.

The furor, which erupted in Ireland last month and then spread quickly across Europe, has led to ready meals being pulled from supermarket shelves and damaged people's confidence in the food on their plate.

It also raised concerns over food labeling and the complex supply chain across the European Union, putting pressure on governments to explain lapses in quality control.

A fifth of adults said they had started buying less meat after traces of horse DNA were found in some products, according to the poll conducted by Consumer Intelligence research company.

"Our findings show that this scandal has really hit consumers hard, be it through having to change their shopping habits or altering the fundamentals of their diet," David Black, a spokesman for Consumer Intelligence, said.

The online poll, conducted on February 14-15, questioned more than 2,200 adults on their spending habits following the horsemeat scandal. It gave no specific figures on how much meat people were buying, focusing only on broader trends.

More than 65 percent of respondents said they trusted food labels less as a result.

"(Brands) will have to put in place really stringent ways of checking that what's being delivered and what's on the label is indeed what's in there," Black said.   Continued...

People shop at a supermarket in London February 16, 2013. Nearly half of British consumers said they would avoid buying meat from supermarkets affected by the horsemeat scandal, according to a survey this month for Retail Week magazine. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor