The Hidden Cost of UK Food

27 November 2017

A groundbreaking new report finds that UK consumers are, in effect, paying twice for their food without realising it. The Sustainable Food Trust's 'Hidden Cost of UK Food' report finds that for each £1 spent on food in the shops, consumers incur extra hidden costs of £1.

These hidden costs of food are largely made up by the damaging impacts of intensive production methods, including environmental pollution, soil degradation, biodiversity loss and some health impacts. These account for an extra 50p of every £1 spent on food. Food-related healthcare costs, linked to poor diets account for an extra 37p. A high proportion of these extra costs are paid through general and local taxation, water charges, bottle water purchases, private healthcare insurance, and lost income.

The report argues that the failure of the UK food economy to account for these hidden costs has given rise to perverse incentives in the food system; where it is more profitable to produce and distribute food in damaging ways, than in ways which deliver environmental and public health benefits. Many food businesses keep their expenditure to a minimum by passing the cost burden of environmentally-damaging practices to the public sector, with taxpayers picking up the tab.

The Sustainable Food Trust is calling for decisive policy action to internalise the hidden costs of food, in order to level the playing field between the most damaging food systems and those which are more sustainable. This report calls on the government to introduce taxes on the most harmful aspects of intensive agriculture, such as the use of nitrogen fertiliser. This would provide revenue to the state, which could be used to pay farmers to adopt food production approaches which have positive rather than negative impacts, such as practices to increase soil carbon sequestration.

Read the full report


Leon Ballin
Sustainable Food Cities
07 917 230 121

Sustainable Food Cities is a partnership programme run by

Soil Association

Food Matters

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Sustainable Food Cities is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

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