Rocketing fruit and vegetable prices – as a result of Brexit – could lead to 12,400 extra deaths from heart disease and stroke over the next decade, according to researchers.
The new study looked at the potential impacts of four different types of Brexit, and found ‘no-deal’ Brexit will have the biggest impact on health, with intake of fruit and vegetables expected to fall by around 11.4% and 9% respectively.
The paper, published in the BMJ open, used the IMPACT food policy model, which combines a wide range of dietary intake, economic, and health data to estimate potential consequences.
Fruit and vegetable intake – proven to be linked to cardiovascular health – is already below recommended levels for more than half of the UK population, but it is expected to fall further under each of the Brexit scenarios, with a ‘no-deal’ exit being the most harmful, the study said.
The researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Liverpool, and the Medical University of Gdańsk highlighted the UK is heavily dependent on fruit and vegetable imports – 84% and 48%, respectively in 2017– and costs for these are set to rise significantly after Brexit.
The study said: ‘Our model suggests that a no-deal Brexit scenario would be the most harmful, generating approximately 12 400 (6690 to 23 390) extra CVD deaths between 2021 and 2030, whereas establishing a free trading agreement with the EU would have a lower impact on mortality, contributing approximately 5740 (2860 to 11 910) extra CVD deaths.’
It continued: ‘Post-Brexit trade policy could increase price and decrease intake of fruit and vegetables, thus increasing [cardiovascular disease] mortality in England.
‘The UK Government should therefore carefully consider the population health implications of Brexit during upcoming negotiations and post-Brexit planning, particularly adverse changes to food systems.’
The Government is coming under increasing pressure to answer concerns over the impact of a ‘no-deal Brexit on healthcare.
Last week, health secretary Matt Hancock was given a 10-day deadline to answer questions about a potential medicine shortage in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit by the EU home affairs sub-committee.
And new legislation set to come into force next month will see pharmacists be able to alter the strength, quantity or type of drug, without GP permission in a bid to deal with medicine shortages in preparing for a possible ‘no deal’ Brexit.