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Chinese food manufacturers face pressure

Posted: 20 October 2020 | | 1 comment

A survey of 1,000 Chinese adults shows rising food safety concerns following the covid outbreak.

China supermarket

A startling 87 percent of consumers in China are more concerned over food safety than they were just a year ago.

The survey, conducted by Lloyd’s Register, found that of the 1,000 Chinese consumers interviewed, more than three-quarters have changed their food shopping or consumptions habits in the last 12 months.

These results reveal rising worries among the public following the pandemic, with consumers more open to changing their habits if incidences, such as recalls, occur. Although food scares have always been bad for brand image, Lloyd’s Register warns that they could now be perilous.

Kimberly Carey Coffin, Global Technical Director at Lloyd’s Register, said: “Concerns are understandably high among Chinese consumers. 2020 has seen the Chinese food industry heavily impacted, with the COVID-19 pandemic and severe flooding impacting supply. The results from our survey put further emphasis on the responsibilities of food manufacturers and the wider supply chain to ensure food safety standards are met.”

Food hygiene was the biggest food priority among 82 percent of the respondents, followed closely by nutrition (73 percent). When asked about their chief concerns, 56 percent said it was finding foreign objects, such as metal or plastic, in their food.

Food waste, plastic and sustainability are among other topics also worrying adults in China. Ninety-two percent of respondents admitted that they thought food waste is a problem.

With President Xi Jinping recently launching a campaign to tackle food waste, this issue will likely become ever more prominent in the nation’s eyes.

The report details how the industry can rebuild consumer trust through the likes of internationally-recognised standards, Responsible Plastic Management (RPM) and GFSI-benchmarked standards such as those from FSSC 22000 and BRCGS.

Labelling and farming methods were also reviewed, with the survey finding that only 18 percent were ‘very confident’ that food labelled as organic is truly grown or reared in such conditions.

Moreover, nearly all respondents said it was either ‘fairly’ or ‘very important’ for supermarkets or restaurants to only stock food from ethical and sustainable sources. Ninety percent confirmed that the welfare and treatment of animals has some form of impact on their purchasing decisions.

Coffin added: “The responses from adults in China has thrown a whole host of challenges at the food industry. Not only do they appear to have a growing responsibility to tackle plastic pollution and food waste, but there also seems to be a willingness from Chinese consumers to hold brands accountable.

“Organisations working across the Chinese food industry must start work on regaining consumer trust by avoiding recalls and scares. Being certified to internationally-recognised food safety standards is a good starting point, and ensuring audits are independently verified helps ensure that proper processes and systems are in place.”

The full report can be downloaded on the Lloyd’s Register website. For more information, please visit https://www.lr.org/en-us/resources/china-food-trends-report-2020/.

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