Panic-buying Brits strip supermarket shelves of pasta, rice and water

Panic-buying Brits strip supermarket shelves of pasta, couscous and water: Shops are left bare of larder essentials as well as toilet roll, Berocca and disinfectant as coronavirus ‘preppers’ brace for meltdown

  • Shops see a surge in panic buying fuelled by the coronavirus crisis with supermarkets seeing empty shelves
  • Dried foods such as pasta, rice and cous cous selling out as readers send in pictures of empty shelves
  • A major outbreak in Britain would cause ‘food riots’ and supermarkets have develop plans to ‘feed the nation’
  • Are you stockpiling or is your local supermarket selling out of goods? Send your pictures to [email protected]

The shelves of British supermarkets are emptying at pace and staples are being rationed as coronavirus stockpiling spiralled out of control today amid warnings of ‘food riots’ if the crisis worsens.

Shortages previously limited to anti-bacterial hand gel and hand soap have spread to cupboard items such as rice, pasta, couscous, Pot Noodles, bottled water, toilet roll and pet food – as well as chilled items including milk, butter and yoghurt.

Pharmacy shelves are also emptying of paracetamol, ibuprofen and immune-system boosting tablets such as Berocca as people prepare to fight off the flu-like illness that has claimed hundreds of lives worldwide.

Facebook and Twitter is packed with photographs of empty shelves from major supermarkets across the UK where shoppers appear to have thrown empty boxes into the aisles in the mad scramble for items.

MailOnline readers have also shared pictures of their well-stocked larders as people prepare for weeks in isolation.

One reader said: ‘I have been trying for THREE days to buy pasta but I cannot see any as most shops have run out of pasta and pasta sauce’.

The scramble for food has also revealed what Britons do not consider essentials despite a China-style shutdown of communities predicted – including some flavours of crisps and confectionary including Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

Londoner Jasia Warren tweeted: ‘Interesting to see what people are stockpiling in my local supermarket. Bare shelves for rice, pasta, handwash, tissues and loo roll. Also interesting to see what people are not stockpiling: polenta, crumpets and get well cards. Their loss is my gain. #stockpiling’. 

As stockpiling is on the increase, MailOnline can reveal:

  • The number of people buying hand sanitiser in British supermarkets jumped from 468,433 in February 2019 to 1,156,102 during the four weeks to February 23 2020, according to sales experts Kantar;
  • Shopper numbers for liquid soap increased also by 400,000 from 7,282,876 to 7,656,645 units last month; 
  • Supermarket sales of oral painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen grew by 10% in the past four weeks;

Shelves in this London Tesco is empty of pasta, pasta sauces, rice and other staples but crisps and chocolate oranges appear to have been left

This London Sainsbury’s is running out of germ-busting disinfectant, bleach and anti-bacterial wipes 

Water is also selling out in supermarkets including this Asda in the capital despite coronavirus posing little threat to the country’s water supply

Sales of oral painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen are up ten per cent in the past year 

Milk also appears to be flying off themselves along with other dairy products such as cheese and yoghurts also selling well

There has also been a spike in sales of effervescent drinks containing vitamin C including Berocca and Redoxen

This MailOnline reader has shared pictures of her stockpiled goods that include pies, squash, beans, sauces, detergent, bottled water and pet food

These two pocket-sized bottles of limited edition antibacterial hand gel are being sold on Amazon for £50 as people try to cash in

By Nick Fagge

Shoppers and supermarket staff have told how the Haslemere Coronavirus outbreak has caused panic buying.

Stocks of toilet roll, pasta and baked beans were completely sold out at the Sainsbury’s store in nearby Liphook, with new deliveries failing to make-up the short-fall.

Today shelves remained partially empty with shoppers buying extra provisions, just in case.

One shopper, who declined to be identified, told MailOnline: ‘There was panic buying here on Saturday.

‘The shelves were empty of rice, pasta, beans of all kinds, lentils and loo roll.

‘People were clearly worried about what had happened in Haslemere and wanted to make sure they would be ok if they had to stay in-doors.’

The 55-year-old mother-of-two, from Liphook, added she had been buying extra provisions today.

She said: ‘Today I saw the shelves were almost empty of loo roll so I have stocked up. I’ve also got some extra tins of soup in and some Lucozade in case we have to self-isolate.

‘Haslemere is only down the road and everyone around here knows people there.’

A Sainsbury’s worker described the weekend as ‘heaving’.

He said: ‘Saturday and Sunday were unbelievably busy – much busier than a normal weekend. We sold out of lots of essentials, like beans, toilet roll and pasta. It looked like people were trying to stock up just in case.’

Shops have seen a surge in panic buying fuelled by the coronavirus crisis – and supermarkets have now drawn up contingency plans to ‘feed the nation’ in the event of a sudden escalation, it has emerged.

With two chains already rationing sales, a former Tesco executive said a major outbreak in Britain would ‘quickly lead to empty shelves and food riots’.

Ocado has emailed customers to warn it is running out of home delivery slots due to ‘exceptionally high demand’ and ‘particularly large orders’. 

Waitrose reported ‘seeing more demand for… cleaning products and hand sanitisers’, and Tesco’s website has sold out of hand gel.

Lidl said it is ‘experiencing a significant increase in demand for durable products and disinfectants’. 

It has now limited sales of hand sanitisers to two per customer – as has Boots. 

Industry experts insist that supermarkets have contingency plans to cope with a worst-case scenario and, despite the pressure, will ensure food remains on shelves.

Under the plans, supermarkets would work alongside suppliers to scale back the variety of available foods and groceries, instead paying attention to maintaining the supply of staple products, the Guardian reported. 

However, senior food markets analyst Bruno Monteyne, a former Tesco executive, warned: ‘If a major [coronavirus] outbreak happens, that will quickly lead to panic buying, empty shelves and food riots.’ 

Mr Monteyne, who now works for stockbrokers Bernstein, told industry magazine The Grocer: ‘Plans are surely being drawn up with suppliers to rationalise product ranges when necessary. The objective isn’t to scaremonger… the industry has plans to deal with this.

‘Yes, it will be chaotic – and expect pictures of empty shelves – but the industry will keep the country fed.’ 

The British Retail Consortium’s director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, insisted: ‘Disruption to supply chains has been limited, and the availability of products remains good. Retailers are working closely with their suppliers and monitoring consumer behaviour to anticipate changes in future demand.’

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, added: ‘At this stage supply chains have experienced disruption but there is no evidence of significant disruption to food supplies.’

However, Ged Futter, a former senior buyer at Asda, said supermarkets were reluctant to admit to shortages for fear of making matters worse.

Mr Futter, now director at consultancy firm The Retail Mind, said: ‘The last thing retailers will want to talk about is rationing. As soon as you mention rationing it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the food equivalent of a run on the banks.’

Toilet rolls are in short supply at Sainsbury’s in Liphook – close to Haslemere, the current epicentre of the UK coronavirus outbreak

Empty shelves in Boots in Weymouth where it is hard to get your hands on handsoap and anti-bacterial gel

Sainsbury’s in East Dulwich has a severely depleted poultry section as  people stock up on food

There is also a visible shortage of toilet roll as people also stock up on tissues 

MailOnline reader Navjot Singh said he has been trying to buy own brand bags of pasta and sauce for three days – but only the premium brands remain

These bare shelves in a Boots pharmacy as panic buying over the UK took hold 

Superdrug and Boots has sold out of hand gel and face masks at their stores with emergency orders on their way

Families are building up reserves to ensure their homes are ‘fit for a pandemic’ with some purchasing new chest freezers to fill with food and portable camp toilets to avoid sharing a loo if a relative tests positive for the killer virus.

Clean mobile twice a day 

Phone screens are ‘portable petri dishes’ and should be disinfected twice a day to stop coronavirus spreading.

Scientists claim the virus can live for up to 96 hours on flat surfaces, such as the screen of a smartphone and urged users to invest in alcohol wipes to clean their screens throughout the day.

Professor Mark Fielder, a microbiologist at Kingston University, backed the suggestion and said ‘don’t share your phone around’.

Last week Professor Peter Hall from the University of Waterloo in Canada called smartphones a ‘portable petri dish, accumulating bacteria and viruses’.

Research by Dscout in 2016 found that people tap their phone screen an average of 2,617 times a day.

A shortage of germ-killing antibacterial gel has seen a spurt in sales of surgical spirit on eBay and Amazon by people desperate to sanatise their hands, with Boots sold out today.

On social media one panicked Briton revealed that they have turned one small room in their house into an ‘isolation zone’ equipped with cooking equipment, bedding and food if they have to be in quarantine for a fortnight. 

Another Mumsnet user said: ‘I’ve cleaned and prepped the farm caravan so if needed it could be an isolation suite. Useful place to store surplus supplies, tinned food etc as well’.

Others are drawing up spreadsheets of the items they need to buy to last them weeks or months in self-isolation.

Professor Ratula Chakraborty, professor of business management at the University of East Anglia (UEA), said: ‘The prospect of whole towns being in lockdown and shops closed is heightening the fear and stockpiling may become rife’. 

Experts believe the stockpiling of medicine and food in family homes ‘may become rife’ as people grow increasingly concerned about coronavirus disrupting British life.

Professor Chakraborty, said: ‘One big opportunity for the supermarkets may be home delivery, where online grocery retailers could see a bonanza as consumers shy away from visiting stores and instead prefer to shop from the safety of their own homes.

‘There is no immediate need to stockpile or panic buy any goods, but people should be prepared to help out and shop for vulnerable relatives and friends who are elderly or have underlying conditions which places them at a greater risk of developing severe symptoms if the coronavirus spreads’.

Ged Futter, a former senior buyer at Asda, said supermarkets were reluctant to admit to shortages for fear of making matters worse (file image)

With two chains already rationing sales, a former Tesco executive said a major outbreak in Britain would ‘quickly lead to empty shelves and food riots’ (file image)



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