18 Mar 2020

The British Dietetic Association has urged the public to exercise restraint when purchasing food, pay attention to their diet and support others during the COVID-19 / Coronavirus pandemic. The call comes during Nutrition and Hydration Week 2020, which highlights the absolutely central role of food and drink in supporting health and wellbeing.

Millions of Brits are now expected to implement social distancing, with increasing numbers having to isolate as a result of coronavirus symptoms. With fear and uncertainty about how people will access food in self-isolation or under lock down, we have seen many people ‘panic buying’ supplies, leaving supermarket shelves empty.

These empty shelves are likely to have the biggest impact on the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society. Many will not be able to afford to stockpile, and more frail or vulnerable members of the public may struggle to access multiple shops in search of supplies.

It has been made clear that there is plenty of supply of important products such as infant formula if people do not stockpile.

BDA Chair and registered dietitian Caroline Bovey BEM said “Although nothing you eat or drink is going to stop you catching COVID-19, ensuring you are well nourished, with good supplies of key micronutrients, will aid the proper functioning of your immune system and ensure better all-round health and wellbeing. If you do become ill, it is important to eat and drink regularly, even if your appetite is reduced. If you have pre-existing health conditions that require you to follow a specific diet, such as gluten-free or hypoallergenic, it is important to maintain it.

“With this in mind, we call on everyone to exercise restraint when buying supplies. Supermarkets have spoken out against it. Stockpiling huge amounts of food is not necessary and leaves the most vulnerable in society at greater risk.”

“Many of the most vulnerable, including over-70s may need support from friends or neighbours to access food as they self-isolate and particularly if they become ill. If you can support someone in a safe manner, we would urge you to do so.”

The call comes as supermarkets and manufacturers release statements to offer reassurance that supplies of food, drink and other household essentials are not at risk if everyone acts sensibly. The government has not announced any plans to close supermarkets or restrict access to food and in other countries where movement is more restricted, food shops and pharmacies have remained open.

The BDA has produced guidance on nutrition and COVID-19 which they will be updating on a regular basis.

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