Do consumers trust in the safety of novel food products?

In Europe, policy shift towards sustainability has created demand for alternative proteins in foods (i.e., plant-based and food-technology alternatives to animal protein). What about consumers, do they trust in the safety of novel food products including alternative protein ingredients?

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. and Finnish Food Authority organized on 30.11.2022 in Espoo, Finland, a workshop to discuss about alternative proteins and consumers´ trust in the safety of novel food products. Experts were invited from authorities, food associations, industry and research, in addition to interested consumers, to have interactive discussion on the topic. The workshop was joint for two ongoing projects funded by the European Commission: FoodSafety4Eu and NextGenProteins.

In a keynote preceding the discussion, Jussi Peusa from Finnish Food Authority told about the authoritative system of food safety in Europe and Finland. He emphasized the role and responsibility of food manufacturers to ensure that their products are safe.

Jaakko Paasi from VTT provided an overview of the NextGenProteins survey where perceptions of 6600 European consumers in seven countries towards new protein sources and their application in food were investigated. According to Paasi, principles of new protein concepts are valued. In general, consumers are not concerned about the safety of food including alternative proteins. However, boosting of trust and consumer acceptance towards alternative proteins is still of high importance. A large share of consumers did not yet have an opinion of new protein sources.

The topic for the discussion was how to improve communication and increase public engagement around alternative proteins? Highlights from the discussion were:

  • “Openness, transparency, and traceability of food products are important”,
  • “In addition to research, every actor in the food chain has its own responsibility for communication and increasing consumer trust”,
  • “The whole value chain needs to have harmonized message to consumers”.

The workshop concluded by saying that alternative proteins are needed since the ecological carrying capacity of the earth is at its limits, and the globally growing demand of protein cannot be otherwise satisfied. It is our duty to boost consumer acceptance and trust to alternative proteins as safe choices of food.

Figure. Panel discussion on how to improve communication and public engagement around alternative proteins. Panelists from left to right: Jaakko Paasi (VTT), Jussi Peusa (Finnish Food Authority), Anni-Mari Syväniemi (Ruokatieto yhdistys ry), Jaakko Korpela (EntoCube Oy), Anu Seisto (Moderator, VTT).

Additional information: Hanna-Leena Alakomi, VTT, Jaakko Paasi, VTT

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