Money Observer: Here’s what Brexit is doing to our diet

As we know, inflation is upon us, and it’s on an upward trend.

Once a month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) determines the price of a basket – think of a shopping basket – of goods and services typically bought by UK households. This is used to calculate the consumer prices index measure of inflation.

I wanted to peek inside that basket of goods to see what was in it, so I sifted through a large ONS data set. How do they measure the price of, say, tea bags?

Instead of choosing one particular brand of brew, they calculate the average price across various makes of tea bag. For this purpose, they send out a group of people known as ‘the collectors’, who visit every shop in a certain area that sells tea bags.

Their task is to select an item they think best represents the store. Usually this is the item that takes up the most shelf space. This way, not only brands but unbranded goods are included, as are shops ranging from national chains to one-man bands.

Next, I looked at what has happened to the price of various foods since the Brexit vote in June 2016. Our tea bags have gone up in price from £1.93 to £1.98 per 250g on average.

But it’s the price rises among salad ingredients that stand out. Tomatoes have gone up from £2.01 a kilogram to £2.21. A cucumber has gone from £0.48 to £0.59 and a dull iceberg lettuce from £0.51 to £0.80. A kilo of grapes has gone from £3.80 to £4.19.

A lot of our five-a-day fruit and vegetables are imported from the EU, so this trend is likely to continue.

As we walk the aisles of the supermarket choosing the foods for our basket, we risk becoming poorer – and fatter – as a result of Brexit.

This column was published as part of Marina’s Imaginary Millions, Money Observer, May 2017

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