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BBC Radio 4 Today highlights risks in 'no deal Brexit' to food for care homes

Food for elderly and infirm people in care homes could be at risk from no deal Brexit, says National Association of Care Caterers and Federation of Wholesale Distributors. Read the BBC Radio 4 Today programme transcript here.

The BBC Radio 4 Today Programme (7.16am - 1 hour and 16 minutes in) highlighting the concerns of care home caterers about the possibility of food price rises and difficulty securing a reliable supply of food as a result of a no deal Brexit. A transcript of the news item is reproduced below.

The Today Programme's news item features interviews with Chair of the National Association of Care Catering Neel Radia and the Director of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors James Bielby, who have been working with Sustain to highlight the needs of public sector caterers such as schools, hospitals and care homes, in the event of a no deal Brexit.

Read Sustain's briefing on Brexit Food Resilience for People Most in Need here.

The Today Programme coverage came on the same day as Sharon Hodgson MP calls a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament to highlight the impact of no deal Brexit on food for public sector institutions such as schools, hospitals and care homes (4.30pm, 5th March 2019).

Transcript of BBC Radio 4 Today Programme item on implications of no deal Brexit for care home catering (7.16am - 1 hour and 16 minutes in).

Martha Kearney introduction: Will care homes, schools and hospitals get all the food they need if there is a no deal Brexit? MPs debate that question today as this programme is told the Government plans daily conference calls with the food industry to check on supplies and prices if we don’t get a deal.

One of those involved in the planning says preparations aren’t good enough and care caterers are demanding financial help if there is a leap in prices. From a care home in Banstead in Surrey, Ross Hawkins reports.

Care worker: When we’ve got residents who keep losing weight, we tend to fortify their foods.

Ross Hawkins: Preparing dinner in the kitchen here, they know fresh food matters.

Care worker: We always have fresh fruit available for residents. They get vegetables with their lunch.

Ross Hawkins: Which means delays to supplies would matter too. Care worker Yvonna and Christine in charge of procurement at Sunrise Senior Living.

Neel Radia, National Association of Care Catering: The impact is, you’ve got a fresh product, it dies by the day, by the minute basically.

Ross Hawkins: And some in this industry worry, really worry, about what could happen in a no deal Brexit.

Neel Radia: This is a real, huge concern for the care sector.

Ross Hawkins: Neel Radia from the National Association of Care Catering. Neel is so concerned, he’s demanding government money for care home kitchens, lunch clubs and meals and wheels, if a no deal Brexit means higher food prices.

Neel Radia: Our fear is that if the money doesn’t come in, people start taking short cuts or start using and compromising on cheaper foods.

Ross Hawkins: And would that mean a direct impact on residents’ health in some homes, I ask?

Neil Radia: Correct, that’s absolutely correct.

Ross Hawkins: At Chris’ high end care homes, they are much more confident, talking of having providers fly in fresh supplies if needs be.

Chris: In practical terms it means our residents will have to adjust menus, have to make changes to menu plans,   there may be some short term shortages, we can get round those.

Richard Ring, Apetito: We’ve doubled the raw material stocks, we’ve added a further week to our pre-made foods.

Ross Hawkins: Richard Ring from one of the bigger food suppliers to homes, a firm called Apetito, is getting in 1200 pallets or some £5m extra food in case there is a No Deal Brexit.

Richard Ring: Eight to 10 weeks, we can cope with that. After that time period, it does get more challenging and what we’d have is probably a substantial reduction in the range that we offer.

Ross Hawkins: So, what would happen with no deal? Well, food industry sources tell me daily conference calls between industry bodies and the Department responsible for food, Defra, if there is no deal to get data on shortages on supply and prices.

But when I meet James Bielby from the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, who may well be on calls involving what’s called the food chain emergency liaison group, he says that’s not enough. Ministers must do more to help the Industry. Not just to gather information.

James Bielby, Federation of Wholesale Distributors: There is going to be a real risk that those groups, those vulnerable groups who require the food and drink, will not be able to have the full range of products that are available currently. There will be some extra resource within Defra to deal with any queries, but it’s never going to be enough. Ww know there are things that nobody has considered around no deal, it’s an entirely new trading landscape. And at the moment, we’re walking off the cliff, in the dark, without a torch.

Ross Hawkins: Not Defra’s view that, which says it’s taking part in sensible contingency planning to make sure critical public service providers are prepared and ready.  Weekly meetings are already underway. 

Meanwhile, the staff and residents playing with the care home dogs in Surrey have no sense of food supplies one a cliff edge. Everyone in this industry knows, it’s the welfare of some of our more vulnerable people on the line.

Published Tuesday 5 March 2019

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