Horse meat scandal dents food trust

More than half of consumers have changed their shopping habits as a result of the horse meat scandal, a survey for consumer group Which? has found.
Public trust in the food industry has dropped by 24%, with 30% of those polled now buying less processed meat and a quarter (24%) buying fewer ready meals with meat in or choosing vegetarian options.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
The survey, conducted late last month, also revealed that two-thirds of people (68%) do not think the Government has been giving enough attention to enforcing labelling laws, with half of consumers (50%) not confident that ingredient information is accurate.

It found that 44% now spend more time looking at the ingredients label on meat products, with 83% agreeing that country of origin labelling should be required on such items.

Confidence in food safety has also dropped, from nine in 10 (92%) feeling confident when buying products in the supermarket before the scandal broke to seven in 10 (72%) feeling confident now.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "The horse meat scandal exposed the need for urgent changes to the way food fraud is detected and standards are enforced. These serious failings must be put right if consumers are to feel fully confident in the food they are buying once more.

"Ministers must ensure that everyone involved, including their own departments, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the food industry and local authorities, are crystal clear about their responsibility to protect consumers and are properly equipped to do so."

Which? has called on the Government to take five "urgent" steps, including more surveillance that is better co-ordinated between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the FSA and local authorities, and the immediate scrapping of proposals to decriminalise failure to comply with food labelling legislation.

It also wants the food industry to improve traceability, labelling and testing of products, with the responsibility for labelling policy returned to the FSA from Defra.

Which? said: "Consumers should know what's in their food and where it's from. The Government should push for the EU-wide country-of-origin labelling to cover processed meat used in meat products, like ready meals. It should also scrap its plans to drop national rules requiring clear ingredient labels for meat sold loose, like in a delicatessen."

10 PHOTOS
10 consumer rights you should know
See Gallery
Horse meat scandal dents food trust

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS