EU-wide survey shows while cloning and GM foods dismay other countries, here livestock conditions cause the most worry.
Britons seem more worried about the welfare of farm animals than health risks from food, an EU-wide survey revealed today. While concerns in the UK over pesticides, pollution, bird flu, BSE, GM foods, food additives and salmonella have all fallen significantly in the last five years, those over the treatment of livestock have risen.
The intervening years have seen high-profile campaigns for betteranimal welfare by chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and plans for an 8,000-cow dairy unit in Lincolnshire have recently caused controversy.
The survey, conducted for the European Food Safety Authority, covered nearly 26,700 people, including more than 1,300 Britons. Fewer than three in 10 Britons were worried about food damaging their health, with only Poles and Finns less concerned.
While GM foods have become more worrying for citizens in most EU states, they preoccupy fewer Britons. A question on cloning animals for food, asked for the first time, revealed 56% of Britons had concerns, far fewer than in most member states. The EU-wide figure was 65%, although the survey was done before the milk from cloned cows scare in August.
More than two-thirds of Britons are worried over animal welfare, up on 2005, but they trail Swedes, Portuguese, Finns, Lithuanians and Italians on this issue.
Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the UK Food Standards Agency, said: “I’m delighted that we Brits keep our stiff upper lip when faced with food scares and have a positive attitude to what we eat. I think we’re right not to worry unnecessarily about food safety threats, as there are lots of checks in place to keep food safe.”
But he warned against complacency: “There are simple steps people can take to prevent food poisoning, such as not eating food past its use-by date, not washing poultry, as the bacteria can spread round the kitchen, and always making sure that they cook food thoroughly.”