Consumers shunning processed foods and reducing waste: FSA study

Some 40% of consumers are eating less processed food and reducing food waste in a bid to eat more sustainably, according to new research by the Food Standards Agency.

Some 30% reported buying food with a low environmental impact always or most of the time.

The FSA’s ‘Food and you 2’ report also shows 32% are eating more fruit and veg than a year ago, while 28% have cut back on meat, poultry or fish. Most of these meat reducers are consuming less red meat (86%) and less processed meat (72%), with 36% cutting back on poultry and 18% eating less fish.

People are eating less processed food, processed meat and dairy or eggs for health reasons, while those cutting back on poultry or fish are doing so to reduce their environmental impact.

Meat alternatives remain popular, with 32% having tried them. Most were doing so because of concerns relating to the environment (41%) or animal welfare (35%). More than a fifth (21%) used to buy meat alternatives but don’t anymore. The reasons for the U-turn aren’t detailed but plant-based products have been criticised for their long ingredients lists and highly processed nature.

The FSA also asked whether people would try lab-grown meat: 9% said they definitely would, while 18% probably would. Some 38% said they wouldn’t try these meats if they become available in the UK.

Most of the 5,796 respondents were confident in the safety of the food they eat (92%), and 86% had no concerns about the products they buy. Those that had concerns were worried about food production methods and the environmental or ethical impact of the foods they buy. 

When asked about specific issues, the most common concerns among all respondents were food waste (63%), the amount of sugar in food (59%) and animal welfare (56%). 

Some 18% of respondents were classified as ‘food insecure’. Around half of respondents had eaten food in a restaurant (53%), from a café, coffee shop or sandwich shop (52%) or ordered a takeaway directly from a takeaway shop or restaurant (50%) in the four weeks before the survey.

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