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UK Public Confused Over Farm Drugs

27 March 2015

UK - Most UK consumers think their farmers use growth hormones and that antibiotics in livestock make drugs less effective for people.

A survey conducted by market analysts IGD Shopper Vista for the National Office of Animal Health also showed that more than 80 per cent of shoppers believe that it is possible for animal medicines and vaccinations to harm people by getting into food.

Dawn Howard, the chief executive of NOAH said that the results of the survey follow on from the fears raised by the horse meat scandal two years ago.

She said that the concerns are still colouring consumer sentiment about food quality and safety.

And she added that consumers are more confused than ever about animal medicines and how they protect the health and welfare of animals on the farm.

“These findings are very worrying,” she said.

“The context of the consumer attitudes was the impact of the horse meat scandal.

“It has had a big impact and was hardly off the news.”

She said that consumer trust in the quality and safety of the food they buy was still down, with some shoppers indicating there was not trust in retailers or in the products.

The survey of more than 1000 shoppers and then of three focus groups compared the results with a similar survey taken in 2012.

The results show that:

  • 93 per cent believe that medicines are more necessary in intensive farming up from 90 per cent in 2012
  • 83 per cent believe that growth hormones are used compared to 71 per cent in 2012
  • 81 per cent believe medicines including vaccines cause harm to people by getting into food compared to 72 per cent in 2012
  • 81 per cent believe antibiotics in animals make them less effective for people compared to 76 per cent in 2012

“Growth hormones were banned across the EU back in 1988, so it’s a real concern that eight out of 10 shoppers believe they might still be used,” said Mrs Howard.

“With antibiotic resistance so prevalent in the media, it is perhaps less surprising to see so much concern about this among the public. But even so, the science is very clear - the use of antibiotics in British livestock is not the main driver of resistance developing among people.

“There is also a lack of understanding about how vaccines work – an again, this misunderstanding seems to be getting worse.”

NOAH is to use the results of the survey to work with retailers, processors and producers and others in the supply chain to bust some of the myths surrounding veterinary medicines and food.

Mrs Howard said that there was a need to improve the consumers’ background knowledge of how animals are produced for meat.

She said that consumers did put trust in organisations such as the Food Standards;’ Agency and the Red Tractor scheme, but while they said that they were concerned about ethical issues, price still dominated the decision making when buying meat.

“The research has shown us that price and quality remain top of most shoppers priorities, although there is clear evidence that they also want to see good welfare, which, of course, animal medicines support,” she said.

“However, it is important that consumers, who are interested or concerned about the health and welfare of animals in the food chain have access to information that’s easy to understand and helpful.

“The 2013 horse meat scandal put the food industry under the microscope. Clear and accurate information about the use of animal medicines in producing our food is a very important part of a transparent and trusted food chain.”

Chris Harris

Chris Harris



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