Will horsemeat scandal challenge Europeans’ relaxed attitude to food safety and quality?

The past few weeks have seen the food industry in Europe engulfed by a crisis with potentially far-reaching ramifications. A range of processed meals sold by a large number of prominent consumer brands have been found to contain horsemeat instead of beef. The unfolding scandal has exposed the complex multi-country supply chains involved in meat processing and the lack of transparency for the end consumer, and is raising concerns about what the pressure to keep down consumer prices means for the quality and safety of the food on Europeans’ plates.
What is ironic is that, according to GlobeScan’s most recent global public tracking data, European consumers have previously been less focused on the quality and safety of their food than consumers in some other parts of the world.
As this chart shows, consumers in the European nations polled are much less likely than North American consumers to identify food safety as the biggest issue the food industry needs to address. Europeans are also far less likely than the consumers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America—where food adulteration has been a common problem—to point to product quality as the food industry’s most pressing problem.
In 2012, our data showed that public concern about the food industry in Europe was spread across a number of issues, with nutrition and health preoccupying consumers more than elsewhere. But the current crisis looks likely to change the dynamic. With respect for the food industry having eroded significantly in some European nations over recent years, notably in Germany, it will be important for retailers and food manufacturers to embrace a much more transparent ethos if a full-scale crisis of public trust in the sector is to be averted.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2012 
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.