Is Brexit to blame for our unhealthy eating habits?

PUBLISHED: 07:58 02 December 2017

The cost of vegetables has risen by up to 20 per cent in 18 months.

The cost of vegetables has risen by up to 20 per cent in 18 months.

Archant

Brexit has been blamed for everything from falling interest rates to the closure of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants, but now something else can be added to the list: a decline in healthy eating habits.

Weston’s Regency Purchasing Group – a firm which bulk-buys stock for 2,700 UK leisure firms, including pubs, hotels and restaurants – warn our vegetable-buying habits have also been thrown into disarray by the nation’s impending EU exit.

Regency says Brexit’s impact on things like exchange rates and worker availability are making it harder for Brits to eat healthily – and this could counter ambitions from The Food Foundation to increase the nation’s consumption of healthy foods.

Only last month, the foundation drew ‘veg pledges’ from supermarkets, food-on-the-go chains and manufacturers to help increase the availability of healthy foods in response to data which showed UK consumers buy just one third of the recommended amount of vegetables.

And Regency managing director Alex Demetriou says that figure – and the nation’s health – may not improve with Brexit on the horizon.

He said: “The majority of fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK are shipped in from Europe and the Americas, and all have seen significant increases due to our exchange rate.

“Asking anyone to buy more of something that has become, in some cases, 20 per cent more expensive in the past 18 months, is always a challenge.

“Even the home-grown produce is more expensive because farmers adhere to increases in the minimum wage, together with a shortfall of seasonal migrant workers, who are finding it more lucrative to seek work in Holland and Germany, rather than come to the UK like they used to.

“People are also de-skilling kitchens. It is more cost-effective to employ a cook, rather than a chef, but the result tends to be products such as vegetables, which need to be cooked perfectly, will often fall away from a menu.

“In the past, chefs were keen to come to the UK from Eastern Europe to work. But since the UK voted to leave the EU, and the value of the pound has fallen, they found the money they earned here was worth a lot less when they returned home, so many chefs now go to other European countries instead of the UK.”

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