The UK food system generates hidden costs of over £116 billion each year, according to a revised report from the Sustainable Food Trust. 

The Sustainable Food Trust has recently released its revised report, The Hidden Cost of UK Food. The report finds that for every pound UK consumers spend on food, an additional hidden cost of 97p is incurred.*

UK consumers spend £120 billion on food each year yet the report shows that there are serious environmental and health-related costs that generate a further £116 billion. Significantly, these costs are not paid for by food businesses and farming practices that cause them, nor are they included in the retail price. Instead, they are being passed on to the public through taxation, lost income due to ill health, and the price of mitigating and adapting to climate change and environmental degradation. In effect this means that UK customers are paying almost twice for their food despite being told by the media that food has never been cheaper.

The report advocates a change in policy where the polluter must pay and where subsidies paid out should be used to encourage a shift to more sustainable forms of production which bring benefits to both the environment and human health.

*The SFT first published this report in 2017, finding a hidden cost total of £120 billion. As we gathered new data and reflected on the information available, we decided to release a slightly revised edition as a number of mistakes were identified and new evidence has been unearthed. The main cost revisions were to the sections on biodiversity loss (reduced from £12.75 billion to £7.8 billion, with the whole section extensively reworked and expanded), organophosphate pesticide poisoning (reduced from £12 billion to £6.4 billion) and food waste (increased from £12 billion to £19.9 billion). Other areas merit further investigation – for example, several recent cost estimates of the human health impacts of air pollution are significantly greater than the one used in this report. Due to other continued gaps in the data a full revision of the report is not yet possible and therefore the costs remain adjusted to 2015 prices.

Click here to read the full revised report.

Click here to read the original press release.

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