British shoppers saying nay to meat after horse scandal

LONDON Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:30pm EST

People shop at a supermarket in London February 16, 2013. Nearly half of British consumers said they would avoid buying meat from supermarkets affected by the horsemeat scandal, according to a survey this month for Retail Week magazine. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

People shop at a supermarket in London February 16, 2013. Nearly half of British consumers said they would avoid buying meat from supermarkets affected by the horsemeat scandal, according to a survey this month for Retail Week magazine.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - The discovery of horsemeat in products sold as beef has shocked many British consumers into buying less meat, a survey showed on Monday.

The furor, which erupted in Ireland last month and then spread quickly across Europe, has led to ready meals being pulled from supermarket shelves and damaged people's confidence in the food on their plate.

It also raised concerns over food labeling and the complex supply chain across the European Union, putting pressure on governments to explain lapses in quality control.

A fifth of adults said they had started buying less meat after traces of horse DNA were found in some products, according to the poll conducted by Consumer Intelligence research company.

"Our findings show that this scandal has really hit consumers hard, be it through having to change their shopping habits or altering the fundamentals of their diet," David Black, a spokesman for Consumer Intelligence, said.

The online poll, conducted on February 14-15, questioned more than 2,200 adults on their spending habits following the horsemeat scandal. It gave no specific figures on how much meat people were buying, focusing only on broader trends.

More than 65 percent of respondents said they trusted food labels less as a result.

"(Brands) will have to put in place really stringent ways of checking that what's being delivered and what's on the label is indeed what's in there," Black said.

In the month since horsemeat was first identified in Irish beefburgers, no one is yet reported to have fallen ill from eating horse but many supermarkets and fast food chains are already struggling to save their reputations.

Governments across Europe have stressed that horsemeat poses little or no health risk, although some carcasses have been found tainted with a painkiller given to racehorses but banned for human consumption.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson, who met British retailers earlier in the day for talks on how to restore consumer confidence, said Britain was closely cooperating with European countries to investigate what happened.

"Looking ahead, there was absolute determination in the industry to restore confidence in their products," he said in televised remarks. "We look forward to meeting on a regular basis to absolutely make it clear that when consumers buy a product they get what they bought."

British retailers now expect the vast majority of tests on processed beef products to be completed by February 22, according to the British Retail Consortium.

LOCAL BUTCHERS

More than 60 percent of adults surveyed said they would now buy meat from their local butchers, the poll said, while a quarter of adults said they would now buy more joints, chops or steaks instead of processed meat.

Michael Suleyman, who owns a family-run butchers' shop in Brixton, London, said more customers appeared concerned although for now there had not been any difference in sales figures.

"We have seen people panicking and asking us lots of questions like 'where do you get your meat from?'," Suleyman, 51, told Reuters. "We assure our customers by showing them the meat and mincing it for them in front of their eyes."

But with inflation running above central bank targets and an uncertain job market, the spending power of British consumers has been eroded in recent years and, for some, buying more expensive meat is not an option.

Nearly a fifth of respondents said they wanted buy less processed meat such as ready-meals, but could not afford to.

At a London branch of Britain's biggest retailer, Tesco, which found horse DNA in some of its own-brand frozen spaghetti bolognese meals last week, consumers were still buying meat products.

"I've got nothing against horse meat," said Sean Cosgrove, 39, a local government employee. "I think you're being ambitious if you expect top quality meat in those products anyway."

(Writing by Alice Baghdjian and Maria Golovnina; Additional reporting by James Davey and Neil Maidment; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (1)
whaleofatime wrote:
months ago.. last year, i met a guy in a pub in brixton in London, who was going on about killing horses including wild horses at one of london’s largest meat markets… i was shaken how he seemed proud of his dailly work of slicing the throat of a hundred horses every day at the market. for me being a vegetarian this was totally out of order and i felt terrible listening to his story. i called upon my friends to help me and support me in this conversation. the butcher went on that the horses included also wild horses. we absolutely couln’t believe what he was talking and thought that he might just be telling us lies as it never crossed my mind that people would be eating horses. the butcher also told us that he was delvering the meat and the fat to fast food chains and they used the fat for backing chips and other fried meat and stuff. i still couln’t believe the story and my friends also got sick and we had to abandon the conversation as there was absolutely no hope to make him see how wrong it is to kill these beautiful animals. there are so many other things that we can eat and i have been living without meat for most of my life and i’m still alive. i find it inspiring to research and discover different foods that are highly nutritious and give more energy than meat plus keep me healthy and avoid taking the life of an animal when i can chose better. now months later as i hear the story of the horse meat scandal i’m actually starting to see what that butcher was telling us in that pub a long time ago. i now see that he was speaking the truth and his story was not a lie. if it wasn’t for that butcher i would even think the media is lying but now i really do believe it is true and i just can’t understand how people can be so cruel and disconnected to do such a thing, be able to kill an animal or buy the dead meat of an animal… there is not difference and all animals suffer so much through out their lives, being produced just for food, they have no life, they are so unhappy, filled with sadness, growth hormones and antibiotics, GM soya that contains high pesticides from Monsanto that nobody knows the real effect of and what role they play in human diseases, plus in the slaughterhouses they live trough so much fear – all that is passed on through the animals to humans when eaten.. i’m wondering, how can people eat these animals?

Feb 18, 2013 9:50pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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