Millions of low-income families could be priced out of getting their 5 A Day as Brexit pushes up the cost of food, a report has revealed.
New analysis by the Food Foundation shows that the fruit and vegetable bill for a family of four could rise by up to £158 due to a combination of exchange rates, labour costs and tariffs.
The Food Foundation said the study raised concerns that already-low fresh produce consumption could drop further amid a diet-related health crisis.
Those on low incomes, such as the one in five people earning below the Real Living Wage, will be hit hardest. And consumption among teenagers is an area of particular concern given that 92 per already struggle to get their 5 A Day.
In a no deal scenario, price rises could mean the poorest 10 per cent of the population would have to spend almost half (46 per cent) of their entire food and drink budget to meet current 5 A Day eating targets.
On average, low earning Brits already consume one portion less of fruit and vegetables each day compared to more wealthy households, but under-consumption is widespread and treatment of diet-related disease is putting huge strain on the NHS.
The report, which classes fruit and vegetables as either Hardy Heroes, Brexit Boosters or Channel Hoppers depending on their levels of UK self-sufficiency, explains that ministers have an opportunity to develop policy that benefits the nation’s health.
The authors suggest a number of measures that could be adopted in the forthcoming Agriculture Bill, highlighting 16 of Brits’ 50 favourite fruits and vegetables that could be grown more in the UK, thus reducing reliance on imports and lowering prices.
The study also recommends actions that could be included in the Agriculture Bill to drive up supply and demand of British produce.
“The government faces a clear choice to boost British harvests of fruit and veg or the NHS will reap the consequences,” said Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation.
“5 A Day needs fresh ideas and an Agriculture Bill which increases supply and demand of British fruit and veg is a huge opportunity.
“It is absolutely crucial that the government grabs the bull by the horns before the Brexit boat sails.”
Encouragingly for the Food Foundation there has been some recognition among politicians that the Agricultural Bill is an important opportunity to boost the nation’s health and support the fresh produce sector.
The former shadow Defra Secretary and MP for Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy, said: “The Agricultural Bill is a major opportunity to help fruit and veg growers, as well as helping consumers to get their 5 A Day. The risks that the industry face are too huge to miss this vital moment.”