Nearly two thirds of fresh produce shoppers have never heard of the concept of food miles - and most consumers are unconcerned about which country their fruit and veg have come from, according to new research.

In an independent survey conducted by the British Market Research Bureau, only 36% of shoppers said they were aware of food miles, and 61% of shoppers said they were not concerned about where their fruit and veg had come from.

Just 9% considered themselves "very concerned" with this issue, while 30% said they were "fairly concerned".

When presented with options, about 52% of those quizzed thought the UK should import less food so that the environment is damaged less, even if this meant there was less variety in the shops and food cost more. But a substantial 23% took the view that the UK should maintain or increase imports of food to maintain variety in the shops and keep costs as low as possible - even if this was damaging the environment. The survey also revealed big variations in attitudes among different age groups. Concern about the effect their shopping habits had on the environment was markedly higher among over-50s. In this group, 50% of people were "very" or "fairly" concerned, compared with 36% of 25 to 34-year-olds and 24% of 16 to 24-year-olds.

The over-50s appeared to be more environmentally savvy in general than their younger counterparts. Only 29% of 25 to 34s were aware of food miles compared with 42% of over- 50s.

Only 38% of shoppers said they regularly bought British fruit and veg. Just 32% of 25 to 34s regularly or always bought food grown in Britain, compared with 54% among the over-50s.

A quarter of all shoppers did not know whether or not the fruit and veg they purchased was grown in Britain. In spite of leading supermarkets' efforts to highlight how much home-grown produce they sell, 58% of shoppers quizzed blamed them for a lack of British home-grown food in shops.

Three quarters of shoppers surveyed claimed they would buy more British grown food if it was available, and 35% would be prepared to pay more for it.

A quarter of shoppers believed the main reason there was not more British-produced food in the shops is that it cost too much.

The survey of 997 consumers also revealed that 96% of all adults buy fresh fruit and veg and 89% of these shoppers do so least once a week.

The main shopping outlet is supermarkets, where 94% of all shoppers buy their fruit and veg. And although farmers markets are growing in popularity, they still only attract 13% of shoppers.

Steve Cooke, British Market Research Bureau marketing director, said: "There appears to be a long way to go to educate younger age groups on the environmental issues around importing food."