The Public’s Trust is a Precious Gift
The Public’s Trust is a Precious Gift

The Public’s Trust is a Precious Gift

Canada’s food system working to gain trust

Trust in the right direction
Tracking Canada’s Public Trust
Source: CCFI “2019 Public Trust Research – Connecting with Canadians”

In the food system, whether its farmers, retailers, or researchers, the public’s trust is vital and a precious gift to receive. Through hard work, the Canadian food system gains the trust of the public, despite the constant presence of negative and misleading media attention on food systems, which gives consumers pause as to whether they can trust the current food system. The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) reported in their 2019 Public Trust Research, that while 36% of surveyed Canadians felt that the nation’s food system was “headed in the right direction”, 42% were unsure and 24% felt we were not on the right track. There is trust in our food system, but much room for improvement.

Where is there trust?

Consumers trust based on source of information
Graphic based off of CCFI “2019 Public Trust Research – Connecting with Canadians”

When it comes to the information relating to food and food choices, Canadian consumers are not overflowing with confidence in the sources. According to the CCFI’s 2019 report, the highest trusted group within Canada’s food system are farmers and producers, with 42% trust of the sampled population. When asked about the responsibility to provide credible information, 71% believe that farmers and producers should be the ones leading this effort. Both government and food processors and manufacturers are considered responsible for providing credible information, yet consumers have a low level of trust in these sources.

The good and the bad

The great news for our wonderful farmers and producers of the nation, you’re the leading source of trusted information about food, so keep it up! However, the issue with consumers putting this responsibility on this segment of the food supply chain is that they’re only responsible for a segment of the information. Yes, without farmers and producers, we’d be without many types of foods, so obviously their credible information is needed, yet often these producers are just the start of the food production chain. Much of what is produced in Canada are raw goods that are processed into food. This means that while we want to know how these raw goods are produced, we need the full picture. This full picture means gathering trusted information from food processors, manufacturers, our government inspectors, as well as the information provided by the firms that ship and store food, and grocery stores and restaurants. The whole food picture is needed to improve consumers’ trust.

Consumers hold all the power

Luckily for Canadian consumers, our open competition of the food market, and regulations imposed to ensure high food safety means that as consumers we hold the power over the market. While we can say we do or do not trust particular segments or types of products within our food sector, we demonstrate our trust with our purchases. For many of us, we can use our judgement to signal our trust and concerns for the food industry. So, if you’re concerned about hormone use in animals, you could find a hormone-free product on the shelf, and speak with your dollars. Or, as suggested through the CCFIs results, Canadians have a higher trust for food produced in Canada than food produced outside (58% strongly agreed with this statement), which is reflected in our marketing of food labelling and restaurants.

Trust is a precious gift, and as consumers, we should treat it as such. By having high standards of trust and concern, it’s helping to keep the food industry working to provide us with the information we seek and pushing for a more transparent industry. However, as consumers, we also have to be a little more giving on sharing what we do and do not trust, and what is needed to achieve it. The industry can continue to try to capture your trust, but if you’re not willing to share how it can be achieved, it’s unlikely we can make improvements. So this holiday season let’s share what is important to us in our food system and give the industry the gift of knowing how they can help you have greater trust and knowledge about your food in the coming year.