Multinational companies hold too much sway over what people eat, according to a Co-op-commissioned survey. The adults surveyed were "suspicious and fearful" of the food on their plates and did not trust products, sellers or the government to act in their best interests.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), genetically modified food and other food scares have dented their trust. Some 84% were worried about conditions farm animals were kept in and 72% believed intensive food production damaged the environment. The Co-op said the research showed the gulf that existed between what science and the law judged permissible and what the consumer thought acceptable.

The Co-op said it hoped the report would lead to an industry-wide inquiry into the issues. The government has since announced it is launching a national debate on the future of the food chain amid increasing concern about food safety and the use of new technology.

It will be called Foresight-the National Debate of the Future of the Food Chain.

Baroness Hayman, minister of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said issues would be identified by the Foresight Food Chain and Crops for Industry Panel.