Food scandals in the UK: a blessing in disguise?

After so many recent food scandals in the UK – the horse meat issue in February and pork findings in Halal sausages on a school in March – people are paying more attention to what they eat.

According to the Consumer Intelligence Research Company, which published a study analysing UK residents’ eating habits in February, about 65% of all consumers are less confident on food labels and 60% are now getting fresh items from their local butchers or food markets.

Health professionals and nutritionists are more than happy with this new data and some even think the food scandals could be interpreted as a wake-up call for fast-food junkies. Most optimistic nutritionists believe shopping in local markets could be the first step for the British, which is the fattest people in Europe, get healthier.

According to nutritional therapist Helen Barklam, from the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy, people who want to be healthier and lose weight are on the right track when turning to local shops to get their food.

“Buying local means you support your local economy, you reduce your carbon footprint, reduce your air miles, eat fresh and seasonal food, support the local area’s culture and identity and, most importantly, you know where the food has come from.”

Ben Allwood, who works at a butcher stall in Borough Market, agrees. He said the great increase on sales for the past month is probably because people are more concerned about what they eat.

“I believe food scandals led to mistrust in supermarkets. People began to worry about what they eat and have turned to places they can trust,” he said. “We have lots of information about our products; what the farms are like and how cows are treated. You don’t know any of this with big brands.”

Miss Barklam believes organic food is the healthiest option on local stores. “Organic farming aims to produce high quality, nutritious food that avoids the use of fertilisers, pesticides, animal drugs and food additives, so it is definitely the healthier option.”

“The most common fruits and vegetables contaminated by pesticides include apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, grapes, potatoes, blueberries and lettuce,” she explained.

However healthier, organic food can be up to 20% more expensive than regular food, according to the Organic Consumers Association. And money, in consumer Debra Todd’s opinion, is possibly the biggest issue that pushes people to supermarkets.

“It can be difficult for families that don’t have much money to eat proper food. It is more expensive to shop in markets, especially for organic food. But I think it’s worth it. If people are stupid enough to spend money on prepared food, they get what they have paid for.”

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