THE buying habits of consumers are set to be transformed by the horse meat scandal, new research suggests.

Almost one quarter (24 per cent) of shoppers will buy less processed meat, and more than a fifth (21 per cent) have already started buying less meat in general, according to the findings gathered from a survey by researchers Consumer Intelligence.

The research also found that about 4.1 million people who previously bought processed meat said they would stop doing so altogether.

The effect of the scandal on unprocessed meat sales is less clear, with 25 per cent of people saying they would now buy more unprocessed meat like joints, chops or steaks instead of processed meats.

A further 19 per cent would like to do this, but said they could not afford to.

Vegetarianism seems set for a boost, with six per cent of adults claiming they know someone who has turned vegetarian as a result of the crisis, the survey said.

The scandal has significantly eroded public trust in the food they buy, as 67 per cent of respondents, equivalent to more than 32 million people, said they now trusted food labels less than before.

And 62 per cent said they were now more likely to buy their meat from independent butchers.

Not all consumers have been put off by the scandal, however, as around 12 million people (25 per cent) would knowingly eat horse meat and a further 16 million (33 per cent) would consider doing so, compared with the 20 million people (42 per cent) who say they would not eat it at all.

David Black of Consumer Intelligence said: "Our findings show that this scandal has really hit consumers hard, be it through having to change their shopping habits or altering the fundamentals of their diet.

"The main issue is about being able to trust that what the label says you're eating is what you're actually eating."

Has the horsemeat scandal changed what you buy at the supermarket? Have your say below.