One in six UK adults unable to buy essential food items in last fortnight

·2-min read
A shopper carries a basket in a supermarket in London
As ongoing supply chain disruptions wreak havoc across the country, almost a quarter of people (23%) said they were unable to buy non-essential food items too. (Reuters)

Eight million Brits have been unable to purchase essential food supplies in the last two weeks, new data shows.

One in six UK adults, or 17% of those surveyed, said they could not buy goods due to the fact that they were not available in stores or supermarkets, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

As ongoing supply chain disruptions wreak havoc across the country, almost a quarter of people (23%) said they were unable to buy non-essential food items too.

The figures were based on analysis of responses from 3,326 adults between 22 September and 3 October as part of the ONS’ Opinions and Lifestyle survey.

During the past fortnight, 57% of British adults said everything they needed had been available to buy, while one in seven (15%) could not buy fuel.

Read more: UK petrol prices to hit all time high by Christmas, warns RAC

On Friday, UK’s petrol retailers called on the UK government to launch an independent inquiry into the fuel crisis, which was caused in part by a shortage of lorry drivers. They warned that the recovery is happening too slowly.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) said fuel stations are still not being restocked fast enough. Its members reported that just 71% of filling stations in London and the South East are offering both petrol and diesel, compared to 90% in the rest of the country.

“The recovery is simply not happening quickly enough. We are into our 15th day of the crisis. There needs to be an independent inquiry into the crisis, so that motorists are protected from such acute fuel shortages in the future,” Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, said.

Watch: Fuel supply crisis: Industry accuses govt of 'inept prioritisation' as London, South East and East still low on petrol

The ONS study also found that as many as six in 10 respondents admitted that their food shopping experience had been different to usual, with 43% saying there was less variety, and 14% having to go to more shops to get what they needed.

Some 13% of adults also reported longer waiting times for prescriptions.

It comes as UK prime minister Boris Johnson appointed former Tesco (TSCO.L) boss Sir Dave Lewis to advise on how to fix the supply chain crisis. 

Lewis, who stepped down from the supermarket chain in September last year, will start the new Cabinet Office-based role on Monday.

“There are currently global supply issues which we are working with industry to mitigate and he brings a wealth of experience which will help us continue to protect our businesses and supply chains,” the PM said.

Watch: How to save money on a low income

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