Shopper confusion about animal medicines in livestock increases

In a sign that the horsemeat scandal continues to affect consumer sentiment around food quality and safety, new consumer research published by the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) suggests that shoppers are more confused than ever about animal medicines and how they are used to protect the health and welfare of animals on farms.

The research, conducted by IGD ShopperVista on behalf of NOAH, found:

  • 83% of shoppers either agree or ‘neither agree or disagree’ that growth hormones are used to make animals grow faster — up from 71% in 2012
  • 81% believe that the use of antibiotics in livestock makes them less effective for people — up from 76% in 2012
  • 81% believe that it is possible that vaccinations could cause harm to people by getting into food — up from 72% in 2012

Dawn Howard, chief executive of NOAH, said: “These findings are very worrying. Firstly, growth hormones were banned across the EU back in 1988, so it’s a real concern that eight out of ten shoppers believe they might still be used.

“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 public understanding about how vaccines work — and again, this misunderstanding seems to be getting worse.”

IGD also conducted focus groups to test consumer-facing messages that could help bust the myths that many shoppers hold. Over the coming weeks NOAH will create a toolkit for retailers, food manufacturers and others containing messages that worked well in the focus groups along with advice on appropriate outlets. These might be, for example, retailer websites, leaflets on butchers’ counters and articles in retailer magazines.

Dawn Howard continued: “This research has shown us that price and quality remain top of most shopper priorities, although there is clear evidence that they also want to see good welfare, which, of course, animal medicines support.

“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 horsemeat 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.”

27 March 2015

Notes for Editors

  1. For further information on NOAH contact Alison Glennon at NOAH, tel. +44 (0)20 8367 3131, or visit the NOAH website.

    The National Office of Animal Health represents the UK animal medicines industry: its aim is to promote the benefits of safe, effective, quality medicines for the health and welfare of all animals.

  2. IGD conducted 1,007 face to face interviews with shoppers in autumn 2014. Follow-up focus groups were held in December 2014

  3. NOAH has produced a video dispelling commonly held consumer myths: Animal Medicines in Food Production — Challenging Consumer Myths

  4. IGD is a food and grocery research and training charity

  5. IGD ShopperVista is a monthly analysis of British grocery shopper sentiment, talking to more than 1,000 shoppers every month to provide insight on their attitudes, motivators and barriers to food and grocery shopping, and what they expect to be doing in the future. IGD ShopperVista conducted 1,007 face-to-face interviews with shoppers in autumn 2014 on behalf of NOAH, with follow-up focus groups held in December 2014.