The buying habits of consumers are set to be transformed by the horse meat scandal, new research suggests.
Almost one quarter (24%) of shoppers will buy less processed meat, and more than a fifth (21%) 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% of people saying they would now buy more unprocessed meat like joints, chops or steaks instead of processed meats.
A further 19% would like to do this, but said they could not afford to.
Vegetarianism seems set for a boost, with 6% 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% of respondents, equivalent to more than 32 million people, said they now trusted food labels less than before. And 62% 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%) would knowingly eat horse meat and a further 16 million (33%) would consider doing so, compared with the 20 million people (42%) 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."