Country of origin labelling not top of mind for shoppers

Posted by Isobel Drake on 15th January 2010

New research from UK’s food watchdog has discovered that country of origin labelling is not particularly important to shoppers but confusion reigns as to the meaning of the term.

The Food Standards Agency commissioned a study to ascertain more about how people understand and use food labels, including ‘country of origin’ labels, with the multi-faceted research finding that there is awareness of ‘origin labelling’, but it is not a main concern for consumers when shopping. Instead, price and food safety information were viewed as more important additions to labels.

Those who were keen on the country of origin labelling said they would be prepared to pay a small price for the privilege of knowing the source of their food.

When asked on which foods they would like to see origin labelling, people most frequently mentioned meat and meat products. Consumers are, however, confused about whether ‘country of origin’ refers to where animals are born, raised or slaughtered or whether this refers to where a food product has been produced.

“This research shows that even though “country of origin” isn’t a top priority for consumers, confusion remains over what “Produced in the UK” actually means,” Tim Smith, Chief Executive of the FSA, said. “The issue is not about more origin labelling but the need for greater clarity on the labels on some of our most popular foods.

“European labelling rules being proposed will require businesses that make origin claims to provide further information, so that people will know where their food actually comes from, not just where it was processed.

“In the meantime, we believe that the willingness of food businesses to take account of our guidance in their labelling practices has improved the information available to consumers and we will continue to encourage uptake and, in discussion with food businesses, identify any barriers to providing this information.”