Food Shoplifter - ©

Rising Food Prices Hammering British Morals, Ethics

I saw this coming, and I think I even warned about it in this space. It’s happened before. File it under ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’. A fundamental need for decent eats has led to record numbers of Brits shoplifting food…

Food Shoplifting - © 2023 - The Guardian.comIndustry observers say self-check-out stations are making the UK a nation of shoplifters…

If it wasn’t a fundamental issue like starvation, most folks would be getting all tangled up in debates about the morals and ethics, right and wrong. A purely academic exercise.

But growing numbers of adults – predominantly younger adults – are admitting to pollsters that they’re stealing food from supermarkets. Some on a regular basis. And some observers warn that indicates a ‘massive destabilization of household finances’, that will effect all aspects of British life.

The raw survey

The basic, underlying reality staggering: The official Office for National Statistics figures show a 19.1 percent rise in the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages since March last year. That’s an inflation rate most Brits can’t recall seeing before in their lifetimes.

Optimum conducted a new survey for money-saving app ZipZero that revealed some sad realities. A group of 2,000 British adults was asked some potentially shaming questions, between this past March 4 and 7, admitted changes in their finances and food shopping habits:

  • One in five adults has sought financial support to handle rising grocery costs.
  • Some 8 percent have used their overdraft or a credit card to pay for food
  • Around 6 percent reported borrowing money from friends or family to cover ‘essential purchases’.
  • Some 5 percent of adults who never had to resort to them before have started using food banks.
  • Younger adults are suffering disproportionately, with 37 percent seeking financial support compared with 5 percent of those over the age of 55.

Even more troubling were results for some of the more embarrassing questions:

  • One in 10 younger adults has admitted stealing items at supermarket self-checkouts over the last year as food prices soared, according to a survey.
  • One in 25 adults overall said they have intentionally skipped or incorrectly scanned items at the checkout amid record food and drink inflation.

A serious and worsening picture

“The rising price of food is massively destabilising household finances,” ZipZero chief executive Mohsin Rashid warned. “With one in five adults seeking financial support, and double this number for young adults, there can be no doubt that food inflation is raising poverty levels in the country.”

Echoing observations about the strength and resolve of the British people when facing adversity – such as the rationing and shortages during the Second World War – Rashid remarked that, “The resilience and tenacity of Britons have been remarkable, with many finding new savvy ways to cut spending. But we are running out of room to manoeuvre.”

“With a staggering number of adults actively turning to petty theft and food banks to reduce costs, food inflation is changing social norms and redefining life standards in the UK.”

And what’s the answer?

“Sector-wide intervention, akin to the Energy Support Scheme, is needed to prevent this crisis from spiralling further,” Rashid suggests. That, of course, would require massive government expenditure for an unknown period of time. It’s not a matter of what to do, it seems, but how to accomplish it. I wonder… Where would the money come from?

My take

The situation in the UK simply foretells a similar deterioration of the morals and ethics of the rest of Europe, North America and other parts of the developed world. As I’ve remarked before, food crises have triggered other massive shifts in social and political reality in the past. We must all decide, now, what kind of future we want.

~ Maggie J.