Supermarkets lose trust factor

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Consumers are losing faith in supermarkets, with only one in six trusting them to sell safe food, research has suggested.

And three in four people (76 per cent) are more concerned than ever about the safety of the food they buy, the survey for Good Housekeeping magazine found. Although nearly all those questioned (97 per cent) buy most of their food from a supermarket, the survey revealed that 67 per cent trust supermarkets less than they used to and one in six (16 per cent) lacks confidence in supermarkets to sell safe foods.

This lack of trust is particularly apparent when buying meat, with 18 per cent admitting they have changed their habits and only now buy meat from a local butcher rather than a supermarket.

The 1,000 people questioned nationwide in July said fears about food additives, changes in eating habits and organic produce were all causes for concern. Of those asked, 81 per cent "always or sometimes" buy organic food, but 19 per cent never have.

Of those who never buy organic, 54 per cent do not believe it is any better and 51 per cent believe it too expensive. But those who buy organic cite concern about food production methods (68 per cent), believe it is healthier (44 per cent) and that it tastes better (36 per cent). More than half of those questioned admitted they eat less meat (55 per cent) than they used to, and 27 per cent said they try alternatives to meat, or fish.

Good Housekeeping's editor, Lindsay Nicholson, said: "Despite all the scares we've had, the food industry still puts price before safety. A thorough overhaul of our food production system is well overdue."

Tesco and Sainsbury's said there was "no doubt" consumer confidence had been shaken by recent food scares, but they believed they were trusted by their customers. Asda said it was never complacent and its customer numbers had increased.