AN ACADEMIC has called for the Government to introduce food rationing in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

University of Sussex food safety expert Professor Erik Millstone wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding the emergency measures.

He warned shortages were possible as British fruit and vegetables supplies mainly come from Spain and Italy, the two European countries most affected by the pandemic.

The expert’s letter branded the Government’s response to panic buying “weak and unconvincing”.

“The coronavirus crisis has revealed weaknesses in our ‘just-in-time’ food distribution system,” Prof Millstone said.

“Thirty years ago the UK’s food retailers carried ten to 12 days of stock, now they have just 24 to 36 hours of stock.

“It is all in trucks or on the shelves. In pursuit of ‘efficiency’ and cost-cutting the system has lost its resilience.

“We need to rebuild resilience for our food system and reduce our reliance on imports and just-in-time deliveries.

“We must also ensure that the food we have is equitably distributed.”

Prof Millstone said produce imports from Spain and Italy could diminish rapidly due to worker shortages caused by the pandemic.

So he has demanded the Government introduce a “health-based” food rationing scheme to see Britain through the crisis.

The letter also asks the Prime Minister to ensure people on low incomes had access to nutritious food.

And it called for food to be delivered to those in self-isolation.

Prof Millstone’s wrote the letter with University of London food policy professor Tim Lang and Cardiff University environmental expert Professor Terry Marsden.

The academics warned supply shortages will impact on Brits’ diets and will weaken people’s immune systems.

And they worried the coronavirus crisis would exacerbate food inequality as people on lower incomes have less access to nutritious food.

Prof Lang said the situation facing the country is “Brexit times 20”.

But he blasted the Government for blaming consumers for empty shelves.

And expert said ministers had used the word “stockpiling” incorrectly.

“Stockpiling means you get enough food for six months or a year,” Prof Lang said.

“This is not the way to treat the public in a good way.

“We’ve got to do demand management, not just blame people when they start getting three days or a week’s food supply.

“That’s nothing.”

  • The coronavirus Sussex Crisis Fund has been set up to help those affected by the pandemic. The Argus’s charity and American Express have each donated £50,000 to kick-start the appeal.  Grants will usually be for up to £5,000. More information is available at www.sussexgiving. To donate visit