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Environment & ethics   |   Organics

Quarter of shoppers ‘don't believe organic label’

Over a quarter of shoppers say they are “not confident at all” that food labelled as organic has been produced under organic farming methods, a new survey has found.

While shoppers do have more ethical considerations when shopping, there is a “deep suspicion” over the labelling of ethical products. The results were of a poll of 1,000 online shoppers, carried out by research agency Lloyd’s Register for its Food Trends report.

Almost two thirds (61 per cent) of those asked said they were "fairly confident" that the organic label was accurate, 26.9 per cent said they were "not confident at all" and 11.8 per cent said they were "very confident".

As well as distrust of the organic label, one in five UK consumers declared themselves to be "not confident at all" or "very suspicious" about claims that vegan products do not contain meat.

“Our research has found that there is a deep suspicion on the part of shoppers regarding ethical food products. In an industry built on trust, this signals that this trust is under threat,” the report stated. “This will mean that certification bodies will need to increase their efforts to educate consumers on the role of certification and what the logo represents.”

Organic ethical label
There is distrust over what certification labels stand for, one survey has found.

A spokesperson for the Soil Association, the UK's largest certifier of organic food, said: "The use of the word ‘organic’ on food or drink products is protected by EU law.

"When a product is labelled as organic, every step in the supply chain is independently inspected and certified by an approved body. This means that consumers can be confident that when they see an organic logo on pack, such as the green EU leaf or the Soil Association symbol, they are buying a truly organic product that has been produced in a sustainable, nature-friendly way to the highest standards.”

Food provenance is also a key point of interest for shoppers, the survey found, with almost two thirds (63 per cent) saying they check the country of origin of their food products. Food safety concerns, around outbreaks of things like listeria or other food borne illnesses, is also on the rise, with a third of those asked saying they are more concerned than they were a year ago.

Comments

john_ormerod@fastmail.com

6 Months 3 Weeks

If the produce has the Soil Association label, then I feel confident that it conforms to what I woul expect from something claiming to be organic. If it has the the Organic Farmers and Growers, then I do not. The SA always has the label GB-ORG-05

1 Reply

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Comments Editor

6 Months

The Soil Association have very strict criteria and it is a great way to be sure that food is produced organically to the highest standards.

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john_ormerod@fastmail.com

6 Months 3 Weeks

(I pressed a key combination that sent the above - this needs an 'edit' facility)
whereas the OF&G is usually GB-ORG-03.

I was alerted this discrepancy some 7 or 8 years ago by a Channel 4 investigation into organic chicken and egg farming. It's conclusion was that only the SA standards matched what you would expect for something labelled 'organic'. They were not impressed by what the OF&G allowed farmers to do and still use the organic label. Both of these can carry the EU leaf symbol, so you have to look a little further.

Sainsbury's has been dumbing down some of its organic produce over the past year. All of its own milk is now OF&G, which is why we have stopped buying it - my wife likes skimmed milk in her tea, so we now get it mostly from Riverford.

I have complained to them about not differentiating between SA and OF&G chickens. They charge us the same price, even though the OF&G ones must be cheaper to produce and hence, cheaper for them to buy. Their reply was that all their organic chickens met SA standards - left me speechless.

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chazym26

6 Months 3 Weeks

In terms of meat it’s clear that organic doesn’t cover ethics and therefore the animals are not necessarily better treated.

In terms of Soya and Corn it doesn’t mean they are GM free when imported (this would be impossible to control)

And packaging, organic products often have as much packaging or more plastic than conventional (strange really). This is just because the demographic wants higher quality due to a better level of food education. For us we want to see less packaging, both from a professional and private point of view in many many case the packaging is a marketing tool and not about shelf life / quality.

Yes organic labels aren’t 100% everything they should be and I’m not about to spill industry secrets, BUT it is a huge step better than conventional and people REALLY should be more concerned with more important topics like, reducing meat consumption, environmental linked impacts and the choice of where they buy their produce (I.e not a supermarket and buy from local producers).

1 Reply

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Comments Editor

6 Months 3 Weeks

Hi chazym26, thanks for raising some great points. To be certified as organic by the Soil Association though all ingredients must be GM free, and organic animals can’t be fed on GM feed. In addition to this Soil Association organic standards cover living conditions and so welfare is much higher https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/why-organic/better-for-animals/

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recross@btinternet.com

6 Months 3 Weeks

the soil association lable means that the land has received no chemicals for three years. that means that the food grown in it won;t poison you but it doesn't mean that its particularly nutricious. Here in Hampshire the Laverstoke Estate has been farmed organicaly by Jody Schecker for many years. At a local function I once asked Mrs Scheckter how long it took before they were satisfied with the soil quality. The answer was eleven years. Supermarkets are probably not a good place to buy food, organic or otherwise.
Roy Cross

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anthony roper

6 Months 3 Weeks

Yes I would agree, confidence in a particular label is important. Fresh produce can have an organic label but who and how often is the authenticity being checked. That's why it's good to buy from Riverford where one has more confidence, also straight from producers gives me more confidence.

What really worries is products that are marked Vegan and Organic and say. 'may contain traces of milk or egg'. I usually put them back, and buy something else.

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Kathryn

5 Months 4 Weeks

I have little confidence in supermarket own brands or large corporations with a large supplier base were profit is their main focus . I've worked in the supplier domain, albeit high street fashion, but when things go wrong rarely is the moral route taken and lies may be told to the client to protect profits. Consumers often blindly trust believing what they buy is correct to labelling but my working experience has made me very careful about where I shop and prefer smaller brands where trace-ability is simple.

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