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’re used to protect the health and welfare of animals on farms.
The research, conducted by IGD ShopperVista on behalf of NOAH, and which involved talking to 1,007 consumers, found:
> 83% of shoppers either agreed or “neither agreed or disagreed” that growth hormones were used to make animals grow faster – up from 71% in 2012;
> 81% believed that the use of antibiotics in livestock made them less effective for people – up from 76% in 2012; and
> 81% believed that it’s possible that medicines including vaccinations could cause harm to people by getting into food – up from 72% in 2012.
Noah chief executive Dawn Howard said the findings were very worrying.
“First, 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,” she said.
“With antibiotic resistance so prevalent in the media, it’s 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’s 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. During 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 could be used, for example, on retailer websites, leaflets on butchers’ counters and articles in retailer magazines.
“This research has shown us that price and quality remain top of most shopper priorities,” Ms Howard added, “although there’s clear evidence they also want to see good welfare, which, of course, animal medicines support.
“However, it’s important that consumers who’re 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.”