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Brexit: tell us your consumer concerns

Leaving the EU will create a number of changes for consumers in the UK. Politics aside, which subjects can we help you with?

From the first of January 2021, the UK’s transition period will end.  The politics of the situation aside, this new arrangement is likely to mean a fair few changes to us as consumers, including how we shop, travel, trade with other nations, and more. 

With coronavirus very much a concern on people’s minds, the end of the transition period has almost taken a back seat. 

As the new year approaches and with so many details yet to be confirmed, we want to hear what practical issues Which? might be able to help with.

What are you most concerned about right now?
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Brexit Q&A

Ask us your questions in the comments – we’ll update the answers here as we’re able to do so.

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If there’s a question someone’s asked that you’d also like to see answered, please give it a thumbs up! (NB you’ll need to be logged in to do so). We’ll use these to prioritise with our research teams.

Please be aware there are some questions on this we won’t be able to answer, particularly in relation to the politics of the situation.

Jump ahead to:

Cars | Consumer Rights | Food and Food Standards | Healthcare | Money | Sustainability | Trade | Travel

(Click or tap to expand or hide each question)

Cars

What will happen to car prices after Brexit?

Car manufacturers have indicated that prices may rise in the event of a no-deal Brexit. If you’re buying a car, you may want to complete the transaction as soon as possible.

Find out what manufacturers have said, and how much extra you might pay

How can I take my car to Europe?

In the event of a no-deal Brexit consumers would need an international driving permit. These can be purchased in person from a post office, but not online. Currently just three in 10 post offices offer an IDP service.

In a no-deal scenario you will also require a Green Card to take your vehicle outside of the UK.

A Green Card is an international certificate of insurance which proves that your UK Motor Insurance policy provides you with the minimum compulsory insurance cover required by the country you’re visiting. You need to contact your insurance company in advance to obtain this card.

See our full guide on driving in the EU after Brexit

Find out more about International Driving Permits and Green Cards

Consumer Rights

Will Section 75 protection still work if I’ve bought from the EU?

Section 75 still will apply for qualifying credit card purchases where there has been a breach of contract or a misrepresentation – even if this is from an EU trader.

Find out more about Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act

Food and Food Standards

What will happen to food prices after we leave the EU?

Which? analysis has shown that the tariffs set to be imposed on a range of popular groceries could lead to price rises in event of a no-deal Brexit.

Read more about how food prices could rise under a no deal Brexit

What will happen to our food standards after we leave the EU?

Trade deals with the US and other countries could see our high standards torn up. While the government made a manifesto commitment to uphold food safety and animal welfare, we’d like to see these protections enshrined in the law. 

Find out more about how UK food standards compare to the rest of the world

Save our food standards: Sign our petition


Want to talk about this? Join our conversation

Healthcare

Will I be able to use my EHIC after Brexit?

European Health Insurance Cards will no longer be valid for trips starting after 31 December 2020. 

Find out more about travel after Brexit
Want to discuss? Join our earlier conversation

Money

What will Brexit mean for house prices?

We’ve spoken to experts from across the housing sector to get their predictions for the coming months.

Read more about house prices after Brexit

What will happen to the value of my pension?

The state pension will rise by up to £229 in 2021 thanks to the triple lock guarantee.

What happens to my bank account?

If you’re living abroad, there’s a risk that your account could be closed after Brexit.

Read more about what could happen to your bank account if you’re an expat

What about interest rates?

The Bank of England are confirmed to be actively considering the impact if the base rate were to fall to 0% or into negative figures.

Find out what this means for you

Sustainability

Will the environment be a higher priority after Brexit?

The government has asked consumers for their views on post-Brexit climate-friendly standards for electronics which, if introduced, could help consumers’ energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.

Read more about ambitious new post-Brexit energy standards

Trade

What’s the latest on trade deals?

Which? is scrutinising every deal to make sure that consumers are put first in each round of negotiations.

Find out more on Trade deals and our future

Travel

What do I need to know about travelling to Europe after Brexit?

In a nutshell: 

  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least the next six months
  • Take out travel insurance that covers Brexit-related disruptions
  • If driving, make sure you have an international driving permit and a green card (if driving your own car)

There’s a lot more, so be sure to read our full guide on Travel after Brexit.

Will I have to pay roaming charges on my mobile phone?

Including free roaming in trade deal negotiations could save UK holidaymakers significant amounts of money.

The latest information on where there are extra costs for using your phone can be read here.

Comments

I have a general sense of unease about this, which translates more into what is unknown, than what there is to question. It is not clear what WTA/Australian, Canadian terms will be and I have a feeling that these are terms used euphemistically for placating the public rather than for any useful definition of what we end up with. I worry about the antagonism that will exist between UK and Europe if we part without an agreement. That worry rests on various parties being bloody minded for the sake of it and making life awkward for us. I suspect that prices for most things will rise and also fear that supply chains will be broken. Personally this will not be too critical, but the knock on from that will be unemployment and general unrest, which will affect me. There will be some panic buying which will be inconvenient to most of us. I don’t travel that much, but others will find this harder to do. Queues at ports will affect the flow of goods and cause shortages for us. To sum up, it is the general malaise than follows our departure that worries me. I am also astounded and shocked that our country, with its massive Corona debt and worry, wishes to add to that by leaving Europe at this time. I simply can not understand why these firemen would use petrol on an already raging fire.

Devolved administrations, local authorities and businesses risk being overwhelmed by Brexit implementation on 1 January, unable to deal with it alongside the urgent demands of the second wave of Covid-19, an influential thinktank has said.

Local councils, trading standards officers and port health authorities are all part of the Brexit operation but may find themselves stretched because of the resurgence of the virus, the Institute for Government said.

“The pandemic will make these plans harder. For example, critical staff may fall ill or need to isolate and resources may well be redirected to the pandemic response.

Before the EU single market began on 1st January 1993, I seem to remember that the limit for bringing beer into the UK was 110 litres per person, as I was living in Paris at the time. This was just over 9 crates of 24 x 50cl cans. While in the EU’s single market, there has of course been no limit on importing beer for personal consumption. When the UK leaves the EU’s single market at the end of 2020, the limit will be only 42 litres per person. This is 3½ crates of 24 x 50cl cans, a pathetically small amount.

I usually buy a year’s supply in one day, for example on a day trip to France and Belgium. I refuse to pay British beer tax, which is unreasonably around 12 times more than German or Spanish beer tax. These new limits are ridiculously low. Why are they not the same as they were before the EU’s single market began on 1st January 1993?

Importing food and drink that we can produce in the UK makes no environmental sense. There is plenty of good beer produced in the UK and many areas are well served by microbreweries.

We joined the EEC in 1973 not 1993.

Beer is not necessarily a staple that most families will be concerned about.

As a non-drinker (not tea-total but extremely lightweight), the price of alcohol and beer is of little concern to me but simple economics should determine that locally produced products and produce should be cheaper and subject to better quality controls.

I too lived in Europe – Munich, in fact. Beer is bought by the crate for home use and I even enjoyed many an evening with friends at the Hofbräuhaus and even at the annual beer festival. Bottled beer was also available in vending machines at my place of work and could be purchased at any time of the day. What’s most noticeable is that there were no drunks littering the office or pavements.

I am hard-pushed to think of any way in which the British people have benefitted from the UK’s membership of the EEC/EU, perhaps not in taxes on beer and alcohol and certainly not in taxes on fuels.

Paying local tax , what is wrong with that?.

Derek, we joined the EU single market on 1st January 1993 (from its inception date), not in 1973.

You say that you are “hard-pushed to think of any way in which the British people have benefitted from the UK’s membership of the EEC/EU“, yet you previously said you lived in Germany. What about freedom of movement to live and work in other EU countries? That is a huge benefit for British citizens.

https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/legislativescrutiny/parliament-and-europe/overview/britain-and-eec-to-single-european-act/
We didn’t really “join” the single market as it was a change made to the workings of the EEC that affected every member state. I think it is fair to regard the UK’s membership as being from when Ted Heath took us into the EEC in 1973.

Malcolm, I think you’re confusing two different related memberships.

The UK’s membership of the EU (including predecessors) ran from 01/01/1973 to 31/01/2020.

The UK’s membership of the EU’s single market runs from 01/01/1993 to 31/12/2020.

This conversation about the end of the transition period as well as this sub-thread (about the right to transport unlimited amounts of alcohol across borders) concerns the UK’s membership specifically of the EU’s single market. Therefore the latter two dates are relevant.

I have spotted a very odd anomaly on EHICs. The NHS’s EHIC page states at the very bottom:

You’ll still be able to access healthcare through EHIC for visits that begin after 1 January 2021 if you’re … an EU national living in the UK before 31 December 2020.

This suggests that although British citizens won’t be able to use a UK-issued EHIC after 31st December 2020, on the other hand EU citizens living in the UK will be able use a UK-issued EHIC indefinitely. This means that the NHS will pay for emergency healthcare for UK residents visiting EEA countries if they are EU citizens but not if they are British citizens. Given that UK-resident British citizens and EU citizens all fund the NHS by paying the same rates of income tax and National Insurance irrespective of nationality, it seems very odd that whether or not the NHS pays for emergency healthcare in the EU should be dependent on nationality. EHICs have always been based on residency, rather than on nationality, which is confirmed further up the page where it states “Entitlement to an EHIC is not based on your nationality“. What is the justification for the NHS treating British citizens less favourably than EU citizens? Can Which take up this anomaly with the NHS or the government please?

Vynor Hill – you are correct the terms are Australian/ Canadian are hogwash. The UK will be on WTO terms which don’t really offer any special favours at all. It does seem if you are lead by tow-headed New York City born “figures” then your have serious problems.

I am deeply depressed by the quality of government.

David Bill says:
7 November 2020

Brexit will be an unmitigated disaster for the UK chemical industry (what is left of it) & leave the Germans as kings.

I saw a YouTube video about that:-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhpMMJLQNSM

And steel? Shipbuilding? Car manufacturing? Any type of manufacturing?

Our membership of the EU has done nothing to protect our infrastructure, even our energy is own by other countries. The unmitigated disaster has happened under the watchful eyes of the EU, Brexit is not the cause of these disasters.

My main concerns about Brexit are related to food standards and the environment. It is encouraging that Which? has ‘Save our food standards’ as one of its current campaigns and replacement of the US president provides a chance that trade deals may not force lower standards in the UK.

The air that we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat are all subject to chemical pollution. Some of our city centres have illegal levels of air pollution. We continue to produce and import products that are difficult or impossible to recycle.

It’s difficult to know how best Which? can contribute, but I am encouraged by the now frequent mention of sustainability in our discussions. I suggest that this could feature in all product reports, guiding us to buy the products that are least damaging to the environment or to consider repair rather than replacement.

Even it we are no longer a member of EU I hope that Which? will continue to work with European and other consumers’ associations.

On sustainability, it might be a good idea for Which? to include some advice alongside some of its short [promotional?] reports on new products or models on not replacing existing goods if they still have a useful working life left, and on how to recycle or create new uses for goods that have been replaced by the latest version [sometimes for cosmetic reasons, like a change of colour]. If new products are significantly more energy efficient or more effective in saving running costs then that would be a good reason to change so long as the redundant article was not just scrapped.

I would look hard at the economics before scrapping a working product when a newer version saveds energy or water. First, the savings are likely to take a long time to recover the capital cost of the new product, if ever. But we must also remember that a good deal of energy and material resources go into the manufacture of a product; it is important to conserve such resources and not just think of energy savings.

Consumers face commercial pressure to replace electrical products with more efficient ones. Undoubtedly the efficiency of products has improved but the environmental costs of manufacture and subsequent disposal of products tend to be forgotten. Here is a report promoting more efficient appliances that fails to pay much attention to these factors: https://www.amdea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Promoting_highly_efficient_electrical_appliances_Global_Action_Plan.pdf

Which? has been keeping us informed about smart products for some time now. Smart TVs that lose functionality after a few years shows where we are heading. How many smart products will be scrapped because convenient features stop working when they are no longer compatible with modern phones? Perhaps Which? should try to help us that the main function of smart products is to encourage consumerism.

This is not specifically related to Brexit, but now would be a good time for Which? to start a campaign against consumerism.

We need consumers to be better informed about what they buy, so that they can make their own considered choices. Which? is doing its bit but, with only 600 000 or so subscribers and limited reach beyond that I do not see them being able to make sufficient impact. We need an association of consumers that involves far, far more people, not only to reach individuals but to have real influence on organisations and, particularly, government.

It is heartening to see a statement in the annual report about increasing numbers by having tiered membership. I consider that its income of £100 million should allow it to still do a good job; reducing subscriptions but attracting a lot more members should support that income.

However, with a bigger voice would come a bigger responsibility to really represent consumers, so they need to be involved in Which?’s policy by genuine engagement.

As we get closer to a no deal I really wonder what it will mean for food availability in Northern Ireland. For sustainability reasons it will be good to have a focus on locally produced food but there are things I would really miss if they get too expensive to justify buying.

I think that Northern Ireland is the last part of the UK that will suffer food shortages. You can always pop over the border to an Irish supermarket, and bring back what you like, given that there are guaranteed (quite rightly) to be no physical checks at the border.

Brexit is like going to a hospital and demanding that the surgeon removes one of each of your perfectly healthy arms and legs. A complete loose loose.

Good analogy. Brexit is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. The best deal with the EU is the deal that we already have.

What matters to me is maintaining our absolutely ESSENTIAL food safety standards and data protection standards and ending the gross entrapment of consumer goods from seriously NON-democratic countries like china. Just try finding stuff like batteries, light bulbs and clocks for instance which are NOT made in china. Far too many of our essential consumer goods are either chinese or nothing, and china brutally persecutes anyone who tries to follow belief other than communism and they have an appalling human rights record. And remember what happened in their central square in beijing in 1989, I watched it live on the news when Kate Adie covered it so heroically and nearly got herself shot in the process, as well as her cameraman. That must never be forgotten, and little has changed since then, they still brutally crush any attempt to protest for democracy, and look at what they’re doing to hong kong and taiwan. And by buying their consumer goods we’re supporting that brutally oppressive regime, and we’re not given much choice and that MUST change.

My main worry is that trade deals are going to be negotiated which will not be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. They are negotiated behind closed doors under Royal Prerogative, which does not allow for Parliamentary debate or a vote. The details of current trade negotiations with US will not be public for five years. International trade deals are typically negotiated around a series of conventions, most of which ordinary people would think were thoroughly undesirable. These include 1) rejection of the precautionary principle for determining the safety of various products in favour of the allegedly “science-based approach”. This is why US cosmetics contain a range of chemicals banned in Europe, why hormone-injected beef and the heavy use of antibiotics are permitted, why salmonella is rife in US chickens, why cases of food poisoning are ten times higher in the US than in the U.K. and to take just a few examples. 2) provision for secretive and unaccountable ISDS courts which allow corporations to sue governments for regulating products or introducing other measures to improve public health eg reduction of sugar and salt in processed food; 3) free movement of data which is an incredibly valuable commodity but could lead, for example, to the increasing use of algorithms affecting the management, from abroad, of public services in this country, as well as providing essential data for future health insurance companies to deny us access to healthcare; 4) a trade deal will lock the market into the NHS, making the current level irreversible (railways too).
Finally, an inevitable consequence of a trade deal with the US would be a quadrupling of pharmaceutical prices to match those in the US.

You mirror my own concerns in that deals will be brokered that do not necessarily benefit the British people but rather line the pockets of those making the deals. If the government can’t protect the quality of our food and livestock being imported, then we have to stop building on green land and start farming our own provisions.

When you boil it all down it’s about trust. Not necessarily trust in the quality of our goods and services but trust in those tasked with getting us the best deals and to protect our interests. Do you trust those in government? I certainly don’t and that lack of trust makes me suspicious of everything they do.

The email that led me here suggests that Brexit is a generational milestone but I am of a generation where entering the EEC was that milestone. To me, voting to leave the current EU nonsense was an easy decision because I know how few of the promises of becoming part of this great experiment ever came to pass.

Most poignant are the memories of ‘wine lakes’ and ‘butter mountains’ which, in reality were excesses in the availability of goods that the British people were unable to benefit from. The decimation of our fishing industry was another loss as was paying farmers to ‘not’ grow things; it seems that we have been consistently subject to such losses and lunatic decisions down the years.

The bloated and corrupt EU wastes money hand-over-fist while giving it’s officials every conceivable luxury, even during times of ‘austerity’. There was little trust at it’s inception and the people of this country found themselves at a disadvantage for many reasons – what little trust there was has long since been erased.

The cries of xenophobia and racism over wanting to leave the EU are nonsense and a distraction from the original purpose of the EEC, which was to economically benefit all members. Leaving the EU does not mean putting up shutters or barriers to Europe and certainly nothing to do with its diversity of people and culture which the British people have always respected and enjoyed.

During the Brexit negotiations, the EU officials have shown nothing but contempt and disrespect for the British people and while we all want to live in harmony, history has shown that we can be pushed only so far before we push back.

The EU does not represent Europe nor its people, any more than our Euro MPs represent the British people – they represent only themselves and their access to power and money to which they are not entitled.

Many countries trade with Europe without all the fuss being generated by Brussels who, like children, are stamping their feet and having a tantrum because we have spoken and voted to leave a club that serves only their personal interests.

No trust remains about their motives, they have shown clearly where their priorities are and it has nothing to do with the betterment of people in general – of any member nation.

When considering the quality of goods being imported into the UK, if our government were effective housekeepers they would shop for the best quality at the most advantageous prices but I, for one, suspect that many decisions will be based on personal deals being brokered that will not serve the people but rather line the pockets of our politicians, members of their families and those with whom they make these deals.

All of the things you’ve mentioned are important. These need to be red-lined. Deliverables that the Govt has to be measured upon. Will that happen ? Will the Govt even give feedback on any ‘deals’ ? If they do, Will the Govt say one thing and then do another ? Will any ‘agreement’ even explain if there’s parity to current prices and standards ? Will the public even be able check to see what details have been agreed ?

Peter Vaughan says:
12 November 2020

We need to leave the EU, trade deal or not. We will cope with any difficulties. We need to be a sovereign independent nation, in control of all our fishing grounds and able to do trade deals, the world over. If we get an American trade deal with chlorinated chicken, so be it. If the Americans are happy, so am I. We must aim to be the European Singapore, able to support all our industries, in whatever way we want. We will develop our own playing field and the EU must accept our independence.

The UK is already a sovereign independent nation, whether as a full member of the EU (like Ireland) or a member of the EU’s single market (like Norway or Switzerland). So many people misuse the term “sovereignty“, without understanding its meaning. If you think that membership of any international collection of sovereign states means that a country is no longer sovereign, do you likewise believe that the UK should leave NATO because of its obligations under Article 5 of the NATO treaty?

I am seriously concerned regarding the government’s competence in the negotiation processes and their honesty with respect to their intentions.
The management of COVID-19 does not inspire confidence and provides yet more evidence of governmental ineptitude.
Our sovereignty is diminished by the weakening of our economy, loss of trade, lack of STEM education, pathetic ally weakened defence budget, greatly reduced collaboration in research and consequential global loss of influence.

I seriously hope that any American food entering our shops will be clearly labelled with full details of how it’s processed so we can make proper informed decisions about whether or not to buy it. And I also hope that our own home grown food will still be widely and abundantly available and not forced out of production by any imported stuff which is far too unfit to consume. And doesn’t chlorinated and/or hormone and pesticide treated food pose a serious risk of reproductive harm? This is something which really worries me, the dreadful harm which could possibly ruin children’s entire lives as soon as they start. This is something for any youngsters hoping to have children to seriously think about, and protest about! They make enough fuss about climate change, so seriously unsafe food is something they should make a fuss about too. It would be interesting to know what the statistics are like for children born in the US with life ruining problems and deformities etc. compared to ours. And I know all too well what it’s like to have a whole life utterly ruined because of stuff that’s inherited. I’ve had decades of it.

I do not believe Brexit is an issue, anyone who thinks the EU isn’t going to trade with us needs their head examining. The EU/US are though, you’d never believe it if you read MSM & the BBC, in the middle of a trade war cause by Boeing and Airbus. The WTO has sanctioned punitive tariffs for both sides, so we in the UK are outside of that little war and hardly need worry, our US trade was already WTO inside the EU, January it will be WTO minus all the EU’s tariffs and non-tariff barriers AND without the US punitive tariffs on the EU. Quite frankly anyone who worries about Brexit deal/no deal in the face of the economic disaster that is about to engulf Europe, the UK and the globe would be frightened of their own shadow. In fact it is a symptom of the fear spread regarding covid, it is not the black-death and we’ve locked down the very people who keep economies running AND who get the illness and don’t know they have had it. So please do not assume that any concerns I have are related to deal or no deal on Brexit. I believe President Clinton observed prior to an election ‘It is the economy stupid!” and covid lock-downs are destroying that, not Brexit. If anything Brexit as I said saves us.

Ian Williams says:
13 November 2020

You’re missing something very important. The U.K. stands to lose 27 trading partners; the EU 27 will lose 1. Furthermore, to think the EU 27 – each of which has right of veto over any changes – will allow the U.K. to dictate the rules of the largest and most successful trading block in the world is simply naïve. And here’s a thing: any English company wishing to purchase goods or services from a Scottish company must agree to be bound by the Scottish Courts. Likewise it was never going to be possible to trade with EU states at any level unless U.K. companies agree to be bound by the ECJ; anyone who has even the flimsiest grasp of world trade knew this in 2016, when they also dismissed the £350m a week lie. And as for our reluctance to allow the EU to dictate trade subsidies, in case you’d not noticed, the deal we’ve just written with Japan gives the Japanese government a mandate to tell us what subsidies we can and cannot offer British companies. But this is all by the by. The insanity of Brexit is simply demonstrated: the U.K. is the only country in world history to deliberately impose trade sanctions on itself, and to wilfully curtail the free movement of its citizens. How can that be a good thing? What is to be gained by removing my kids’ right to travel, work and study across Europe? It’s madness.

A Which? press release:

Which? comments on the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics report on trade deals
1 December 2020
Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy at Which?, said:

“The majority of consumers are uncomfortable eating farm animals given growth-promoting antibiotics or hormones, and with these practises currently banned in the UK, the government must ensure standards are not undermined in trade negotiations with countries that excessively misuse these methods.

“Public support is vital for trade deals so it is crucial their expectations and views on food standards are central to negotiations.

“It is important that their interests are represented in the body tasked with analysing post-Brexit trade deals and for urgent changes to be made to the membership of the Trade and Agriculture Commission to ensure it has consumer representation.”

There is also a report that explains some of the differences in antibiotic use between countries:
https://www.saveourantibiotics.org/media/1864/farm-antibiotics-and-trade-could-uk-standards-be-undermined-asoa-nov-2020.pdf

Antibiotics are used not only to treat sick animals (not in the EU and not currently in the UK) but in some countries as growth promoters and to compensate for poor animal husbandry. Antibiotic use in agriculture is one of the reasons why antibiotics have gradually become less effective for treating humans and why some infections have become untreatable, leading to amputations or loss of life. But they do help bring us cheaper food.

I don’t believe that producing cheaper food is any excuse for condoning food that could seriously damage our health. It would be useful to see evidence of harm caused by growth promoters in countries that use them, the USA perhaps.

See: theguardian.com – The Dangers of Human Growth Hormones

Scientists will argue hormone growth promoters used in livestock are carefully controlled.

Cheaper food can be just as nutritious as expensive food. For example mackerel can provide as much Vitamin D as salmon.

Protracted and untreatable infections are perhaps the problem that the public can best relate to. Use of antibiotics as growth promoters and the enhanced need for treatment of sick animals caused by poor animal husbandry are not the only reasons for spread of antibiotic resistance but these are regarded as a major factor.

Other growth promoters such as hormones are closely related to the the natural biochemicals that regulate our bodies, so there is plenty of opportunity to cause mayhem. It is very difficult to study the effects of these growth promoters independently of other factors but perhaps we should rely on those with some expertise rather than relying on economics.

We should be looking to produce sufficient meat in this country then we wouldn’t have to resort to transporting it around the world that would be far better for the planet.

What is wrong with exported meat that makes it cost efficient?

I can see the benefit of an arrangement with New Zealand where we trade lamb out of season, but chickens?

Presumably those with expertise have produced peer-reviewed reports that help to quantify these problems. I am simply looking for more than generalisations. I do not believe that the routine use of “medication” should be used on animals to either promote growth or deter disease when good husbandry would suffice. So I’d like to see the extent of the problem and the degree to which it is harmful.

I agree alfa. I would like to see us much more self sufficient in foodstuffs, and wean us off demanding fresh out-of-season foods that require long-distance transport. I could live with tinned or frozen raspberries produced in Scotland and look forward to fresh ones next season. I don’t need to buy roses produced in Chile when I could buy flowers produced in the UK. Green beans from Kenya? However, the problem may always be one of price; can the UK producers compete and will consumers rally behind a support the home grown policy? I doubt it.

Since supermarkets started labelling the country of origin of food I have been buying food produced in the UK where possible, and ideally locally produced food. Hopefully Brexit might encourage more people to do the same but at present there is a risk that we could import lower quality food as Which? keeps reminding us.

Wavechange brought up country of origin labelling on food.

I picked one M&S product at random and one that I know where it is manufactured and this is their product information:

M&S Organic Houmous

M&S Organic is produced with fewer pesticides, no artificial colours or preservatives, no routine use of antibiotics, and no genetically modified ingredients or manufactured herbicides.

Country of Origin
Made in the UK using chickpeas from Italy and Turkey

Manufacturer
Marks and Spencer plc,
PO Box 3339,
Chester,
CH99 9QS,
United Kingdom.

For a start, M&S is not the manufacturer. Fewer pesticides and no routine use of antibiotics, is not exactly my idea of organic.

* * * * * * * *

M&S Organic Strong White Bread Flour

Organic strong wheat flour milled and packed in the UK. Great for making light and airy homemade bread or pizza dough by hand or in a bread maker.

M&S Organic is produced with fewer pesticides, no artificial colours or preservatives, no routine use of antibiotics, and no genetically modified ingredients or manufactured herbicides.

Country of Origin
Milled and packed in the UK using wheat from more than one country

Manufacturer
Marks and Spencer plc,
PO Box 3339,
Chester,
CH99 9QS,
United Kingdom.

Country of Packing
Milled and packed in the UK using wheat from more than one country.

Again, M&S is not the manufacturer as I happen to know this flour is Marriage’s Organic Strong White Bread Flour. The Marriage’s flour that I always purchased from Ocado has been removed from sale and replaced by the M&S pack.

For all their fancy wording, the origin of both the above products is unknown.

Thanks for these examples Alfa. I do wish that manufacturers and retailer would not conflate provision of useful information and marketing.

It’s common for retailers to claim to be manufacturers. I doubt that the ASA would take action unless the claim appeared in advertising but that does not mean that we should not challenge this sort of claim. It’s probably easier to focus on products that claim to be organic because those who buy these products are more likely be interested in where their food comes from and how it is produced than the average consumer.

I agree with what you say about fewer pesticides in products claimed to be organic, though organic farming does allow the use of a limited number of chemicals. That will be the reason for the reference to ‘manufactured herbicides’.

I’m not taking the risk of venturing into a supermarket at present and am disappointed by the lack of information about the origin of food on the websites I am using. I will see if I can find some examples of good and unhelpful labelling.

I really hope that concerns about where our food comes from will not go away.

How on earth did we allow the use of growth promoters in the first place.

” Food manufacturer means a person who combines, purifies, processes, or packages food for sale through a wholesale outlet. The term also includes a retail outlet that packages or labels food before sale and a person that represents itself as responsible for the purity and proper labeling of an article of food by labeling the food with the person’s name and address.”. As many products are assembled from more than one source I assume the manufacturer is the final “assembler” and the entity that takes responsibility for the product.

I am looking at a packet of Tesco Organic Self-Raising Flour and that states ‘Produced in the UK for Tesco Stores Ltd.). That is more honest, in my view, than saying that it is manufactured by Tesco but I would like to which company has supplied the flour to Tesco. I’ve noticed that supermarkets sometimes provide this information, for example when saying which brewery produces their own-label bottled beers. Likewise, supermarket fruit and veg produced in the UK often shows the name of the grower.

The primary purpose is surely to know who is responsible for the product, in this case Tesco. Knowing which flour mill was the producer might be interesting to some but is secondary, as is the farmer that grew my carrots.

I do prefer to buy UK produced food (although I understand other countries, like Canada, are better suited to producing the hard wheat for bread flour.

We produce a lot of our own lamb but then also import from New Zealand, particularly when ours is out of season, in frozen form . We also export lamb. Would it be better if we froze it for use out of season and reduced the imports?

You would need to measure the carbon footprint of freezing the UK-reared lamb and compare it to the carbon footprint of transporting frozen New Zealand lamb halfway round the world.

A factor in those calculations will be the carbon footprint of any return shipping opportunity and the implications of sending a vacant vessel back to New Zealand.

Most UK lamb exports go to other countries in Europe and not necessarily in frozen form. The added value of such exports might exceed the savings from freezing and storing UK lamb for home consumption.

The more we drill down into these considerations the more difficult it becomes to produce reliable decisions. Uneconomical decisions in one area could limit or cancel out the opportunity to improve ecological sustainability in another. I feel we should still try to evaluate all options, and their consequences, in both economic and environmental sustainability terms.

Malcolm – We know that the retailer is responsible for the product but like Alfa I want to know more about where it was grown or produced. Those who are not interested can ignore this information.

The local Lidl already does that Wavechange with special Union Jack emblems and ‘Produced in Great Britain’ clearly displayed on quite a number of their packaging.

Unfortunately they don’t do online ordering, Beryl. At present I’m not going to take the risk of venturing into supermarkets. I have seen the prominent signs you mention.

I don’t blame you Wavechange, like you I have been using click and collect and mostly Ocado online deliveries when available. I haven’t visited Lidl since before the first lockdown, but again like you was a little reluctant to enter the foyer of Waitrose to pick up click and collect. Since you contacted Waitrose HO re this have been fortunate enough to receive delivery from Ocado.

I’m glad to hear about Lidl, Beryl. I do hope that post-Brexit we feel freer to promote UK products. It needs producers and manufacturers to invest more to satisfy increased demand that hopefully would occur, and government to provide encouragement to increase worthwhile employment, particularly in the more deprived parts of the UK. We will need to boost the economy post-COVID so being a bit more home-focussed in what we buy should help.

John, looking at it environmentally is certainly one approach. Supporting the UK economy is another, providing our producers meet the challenge and don’t live off subsidies. I hope the proposed changes to they way we reward farmers who actually improve the environment rather than just own a lot of acres will help as well.

The problem with supermarket own brand products is the real manufacturer can change at any time.

My husband is allergic to cows milk but can eat goat and sheep cheese. He had an allergic reaction to one brand of sheep cheese so will never touch it again. They didn’t even acknowledge our email when we brought it to their attention and suggested there might be cross-contamination. An apology, a thank you for bringing it to their attention and a promise to look into it would have sufficed as a reply. Now if that brand hides behind a supermarket own brand, we wouldn’t know we were buying it.

We haven’t seen it yet, but a goat butter we use is likely to be rebranded M&S. That means we won’t be able to trust it again and he will be back to dairy-free spreads full of chemicals.

Beryl – Our local Waitrose has responded to our complaints about having to go into their store for a click & collect order. You now phone when you arrive and they bring out your groceries. A friend has just tried the new system and brought round some groceries.

I agree and think we need to check both the environmental and the economic approach; as I said, it might work out better for the UK economy to export UK lamb to other countries in Europe as a premium product [subject to tariffs!] and import frozen lamb from New Zealand – it helps international trade if it is two-way so if we buy more from NZ they might buy more from us. We shall be needing amicable trading partners shortly I feel.

That’s very useful to know Wavechange. I am about to reorder so will check with my 2 local Waitrose branches for click and collect as it gets me out of the house and keeps the car battery charged up 🙂

If Waitrose operates the same system as our local Morrisons there is the opportunity to hand back any items that are damaged for replacement. Not all supermarkets offer click & collect services and I have a 20 mile round trip to the Tesco I shopped in before I moved.

Alfa – I presume that you make use of the FSA’s food alerts. For anyone who is not familiar with them, here is the website: https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/search/alerts?keywords=&page=0 FSA produces plenty of alerts relating to foods with undeclared allergens and it might be worth finding out if they will accept reports of problems from the public.

I can relate to food allergies because I had a problem with moulds in blue cheeses (obvious) and tiny amounts in muesli and other foods containing nuts (no way of knowing). Fortunately the problem disappeared within a couple of years and I no longer need to carry emergency treatment.

When I contact a retailer about a problem I am looking for a solution, not a financial sweetener.

I used to get email alerts from them wavechange, but something went wrong with their system and I haven’t received them for a while. But you mentioning it has prompted me to try again and their system now works, so I should get updates again.

I don’t look for financial compensation either. In the days of writing snail-mail letters of complaint, you would sometimes receive a few vouchers for taking the trouble to let them know or refund your product, but emails have put a stop to that.

I hope so, Alfa. I used to get recall information from Electrical Safety First but despite re-registering I no longer receive their emails.

The FSA alerts sometimes provide an insight into the suppliers being used by supermarkets.

I subscribe to the FSA email service largely out of interest; I don’t have any allergies but it is useful to see recalls and warnings. I see them as a well-focused and proactive organisation and approachable.

I wonder if the OPSS would offer a similar service on unsafe manufactured products? You can look for recalls on their website https://productrecall.campaign.gov.uk/ but I wonder how many know, or bother, to check. There are not that many so if they did email them they would not flood your inbox. Equally, I doubt many would sign up to an email service. We need a proactive approach where all potentially hazardous products are registered at the point of sale so, if a problem arises, all owners can be contacted directly.

Most products are purchased using a credit or debit card. These have contact details associated. Is it possible for sellers to link the sale of a recalled item to the card purchaser so they can be directly contacted, presumably via the card issuer? Maybe GDPR gets in the way?

A different list of recalled products and safety notices can be found on the CTSI website: https://www.tradingstandards.uk/consumers/product-recalls-and-safety-notices

For product recalls, the EC Safety Gate website (previously RAPEX) provides the most comprehensive list: https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumers_safety/safety_products/rapex/alerts/?event=main.listNotifications&lng=en

The number of recalls is not large and I’ve suggested that Which? could help by publishing a weekly list, which might then be taken over by the OPSS.

” You would need to measure the carbon footprint……..”. https://conversation.which.co.uk/community/brexit-consumer-concerns/#comment-1613116

Indeed John. I saw an article online in The Times yesterday that said the extra CO2 used to make an electric car, largely the batteries, over a petrol car would take 50 000 miles to recover. That’s around 6 or 7 years. I wonder when batteries will need replacing? That ignores the harmful emissions of course that blight our towns and cities. For those who live in the sticks and can use the electric range of a petrol hybrid when in town, and petrol when in open country, maybe we should be focussing on those for now. It would avoid the plight of an electric Porsche owner who took 9 hours (from memory, but a long time) to get from Bournemouth back to London due to charge points being occupied, out of order, or extremely slow.

Apart from not yet having enough energy storage to take advantage of the availability of renewable energy overnight for recharging electric vehicles [although storing ‘green’ hydrogen might assist here in due course], we are nowhere near enough yet in providing on-the-road recharging capacity. Most car parks I have seen with any facilities at all have just one or two units and with an occupation time of, say, 30 minutes will not support many vehicles. I see batteries as only an interim technology; petrol/electric hybrids are more flexible albeit more polluting. As well as adding considerable weight [disproportionately as a percentage of the total load] and thus a higher fuel demand, batteries are not an environmentally acceptable or sustainable solution.

We are constantly striving to find ways of giving ourselves the kind of motoring to which we have become accustomed, but that can only be at a very high environmental and financial cost. We need a fundamental rethink about why we are travelling, how we can do it with less impact on the environment, and whether there are other less harmful ways of achieving our objectives, even if they take longer or are less convenient. We are living longer, therefore we have more time at our disposal, so why don’t we just slow down and take our time to do things that are essential and stop doing the things that aren’t?

My car has just passed his MOT and has done just 37 miles in the last year and that is mostly to give him a bit of excercise. 🙃 Not a high environmental cost, but quite a high cost per mile. 🙄

I’m glad he did not fail because of cobwebs in the suspension. It might be useful to add a dose of fuel stabiliser in the tank. Petrol deteriorates during prolonged storage and the ethanol content of fuel can cause more problems.

A fuel additive has been added to the tank already.

That’s good. I’m far from convinced that adding ethanol to petrol and FAME to diesel are wise because there is now enough evidence of the problems they can cause in engines.

With Lidl being a German owned company I used to question whether their ‘Produced in GB’ maybe just another marketing promotional ploy to attract more customers, but having tried and tested it, decided I may probably be wrong. I have driven past it a few times recently and the car park always seemed pretty well full.

So it doesn’t mean German Bauernhof then? I bet there were plenty of German autos in the car park 😀

Not sure but parking was always free 🙂