Food shortages, stockpiling and panic buying ahead of Brexit as reported by the British media: a mixed methods content analysis

 Authors: Paul C. Coleman (Honorary Research Fellow), Fatima Dhaif (Academic Clinical Fellow) and Oyinlola Oyebode (Assistant Professor)


Background - Government documents warn that if the UK and EU have not negotiated a trade deal by 31 December 2020 the UK could experience increasedfood prices and possible food shortages.

The media have an important role in influencing recipients’ behaviour by promoting reassurance or anxiety on this issue. This study examines how food supply and demand, in the context of Brexit, has been portrayed by the British media.

Methods - A mixed methods content analysis of articles reporting on food supply and demand in the context of Brexit, in three daily newspapers, between 01 January 2015 and 31 January 2020.

Results – Five themes emerged: food shortages and panic buying (appearing in 96% of articles); food supply chain disruption (86%); economic impacts of Brexit (80%); preparation and stockpiling by the government and food sector (63%) and preparation and stockpiling by individuals (22%).

Conclusion - Government messaging reported by the media sought to reassure the public that here will be no food shortages under a no-deal Brexit. These reassurances contradicted warnings from the food sector and leaked government reports of reduced availability of food items.


These 20contradictory messages may have undermined trust in the government, potentially influencing stockpiling behaviour at the individual level.

[This paper is under peer-review].