More than one-third of British shoppers believe food production standards in the US are just as high, if not higher, than the UK’s, according to research from Red Tractor.
The startling statistic was revealed by Jim Moseley, chief executive of the assurance scheme, at a Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum (WFNF) event in London last week.
While UK consumers think standards in British farming and food production are very high, they also have a similar impression of other mature markets, such as the USA and New Zealand, despite the fact that farmers in these countries use growth hormones to produce beef more quickly and increase dairy yields.
Washing chicken carcases with chlorine is also commonplace in both nations.
Mr Moseley said: “We have lots of technical differences between those countries, the UK and Red Tractor.
“The difficulty is lots of consumers do not know that and they do not understand those differences.
“Over a third of consumers think standards in the US are equally as good, if not better than the UK, and three-quarters of the population believe standards in New Zealand are equal to or better than the UK.
“As an industry, if we think we can rest on our laurels of being British and British alone, forget it.
“If our borders do open and we get more imports, the consumer perception already is some of these other markets are equally as good, if not better.”
Other research from leading consumer organisation Which? has shown British shoppers would be uncomfortable accepting US and New Zealand food production standards in the UK, even if they are not necessarily associated with those countries.
Sue Davies, the group’s strategic policy advisor, outlined the headline findings of the study at the WFNF event.
The survey showed 80 per cent of UK consumers felt ‘uncomfortable’ with the use of growth hormones in beef production, 79 per cent with growth hormones used to increase milk yields in dairy cattle, 72 per cent disliked the idea of washing chicken in chlorine and 64 per cent were not happy to accept genetically modified food.
Ms Davies said: “When we talk to people, there is no difference between socio-economic groups.
“People expect there to be high standards, and when we ask them if they would want to buy food produced to lower standards if it was cheaper, they say no.
“People feel strongly that labelling is not the answer. It is one of the things people feel uncomfortable about and see as being a drop in standards which should be protected through other means, not labelling.”