8 Jul 2010

British shoppers 'not worried' by food miles

4:04 pm on 8 July 2010

Horticulture New Zealand says it is encouraged by a new survey that suggests most British shoppers don't care which country their food comes from.

Researchers at Otago University wanted to find out whether British shoppers avoid food imported from New Zealand because of the environmental cost of transporting it.

Of about 250 people interviewed at supermarkets, about 10 named the environmental cost of transport as a reason for purchasing a product.

However, lead researcher John Knight says when another 250 people were interviewed on the street, 50 of them said it was important.

Mr Knight says this shows people often say one thing but do another when it comes to the crunch. He says it may explain why many studies suggest the origin of food is more important than it really is.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock says the finding is positive, as New Zealand is sometimes unfairly represented in Britain. He warns the findings need to be taken with some caution, as the recession could be skewing the results.

He says shipping loads of fruit and vegetables overseas probably has a smaller carbon footprint than trucking them from nearby countries.

Philip Bird, from the fruit and vegetable export company Integrow Marketing, says the survey results show that the debate around food miles is no more than a campaign run by British farmers.

He says fruit and vegetable exports have actually doubled over the past five years, which suggests the survey is accurate.