Survey: food technology attitudes in the UK

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 9th March 2010

Grocery AisleThe UK Food Standards Agency has published new research into the British consumer’s attitude to new food technologies, including genetically modified (GM) food, high-pressure treatment, gas-filled packaging and foods with possible health benefits.

The results showed consumers falling out into extremely disparate groups, with widely varying attitudes, levels of knowledge and purchasing habits. Certain types of consumer were notably more concerned about food technology, including older consumers, women, low-income and the ‘concerned consumer’.

The study, run as part of the annual British Social Attitudes survey, included the same four questions on GM food that were run in 1999 and 2003, showing that more consumers hold no definite view on the subject, though those who do have opinions tend to be negative.

The study also showed that consumers have very different levels of information about food technology, with most surveyed being able to answer only half the test questions on processing methods correctly.

The more the consumer knew about food technology in general, and about specific terms, the less concerned they were by specific processes. While only 31% were concerned about microwaved food, 57% were concerned when asked about food cooked in a ‘magnetron’ (an obscure term for ‘microwave’).

Expressed concern about general food safety is high, with 76% of respondents noting it as an issue, however only 40% of those surveyed reported having avoided a food for any reason, including 15% on a diet and 15% on medical advice.