June 14, 2005 Consumers of organic food should be more inquisitive about its quality, if they want to make sure they get the ‘real thing’, says a Newcastle University scientist.
A team of researchers leading a pan-European organic food project also recommends that shoppers tell retailers if they are satisfied or not with the products and the information provided on their labels.
The advice is among a series of recommendations given in three new booklets aimed at informing consumers about organic food. They cover taste, freshness and nutrients, authenticity and fraud, and safety and contamination.
The booklets were produced in response to earlier research, which found that some consumers of organic food wanted more information about its quality, origins and authenticity. They are published by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland, in collaboration with other European universities.
The booklets also urge consumers to be more adventurous and to try out a variety of organic foods, and reiterates that customers should provide good and bad feedback for retailers on taste, freshness and other aspects.
Dr Kirsten Brandt, of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, is one of the scientists leading the European Union funded Organic HACCP project that produced the booklets.
She said: “Our earlier research found that many people buy organic because they want to avoid the current situation in mass food retail, where the majority of produce is anonymous. They want to know where their food comes from and ideally the person who has produced it.
“But many retailers are still not providing this information on their products, or not as much as consumers would prefer. Instead some retailers use packaging with vague background information and pictures of ‘fairy tale’ landscapes that may have little to do with the actual production situation."
Dr Brandt, a senior lecturer with Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, added: “Retailers want to know the views of consumers, so they can do something to provide the products that will sell well, and this is why it’s important they open a dialogue.
“Retailers can then look at finding cost-effective solutions to fulfil some of the consumer’s wishes. This could involve building a stronger relationship with one or two suppliers and revising their packaging to reflect this.”
The three consumer booklets form part of a series of 14 - the others are aimed at retailers and producers.
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