The country’s largest food outlets and supermarkets have written to MPs to warn them that a no-deal Brexit could result in empty shelves.
The stark warning said that crashing out of the EU without a deal would cause “significant disruption” to millions of UK consumers.
Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Marks & Spencer’s, Co-op, Waitrose and Morrison’s are among the signatories of the letter, as well as Pret, KFC, McDonald’s and Starbucks.
In a joint letter, which has also been signed by the British Retail Consortium, the group said they wanted to highlight the consequences that crashing out would have on choice, quality and cost of food.
The letter says that around a third of UK food comes from the EU, making up some 90% of lettuces, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of soft fruit.
The letter said that despite having worked on contingency plans, their ability to to mitigate the risks of a no-deal is “limited”.
The said: “As prudent businesses we are stockpiling where possible, but all frozen and chilled storage is already being used and there is very little general warehousing space available in the UK”
“Even if there were more space it is impossible to stockpile fresh produce, such as salad leaves and fresh fruit.”
The letter suggests both product availability in stores and best-before dates could significantly reduce because increased delays from new border checks would see fresh food going off much sooner after reaching them.
The letter reads: “Even if the UK government does not undertake checks on products at the border, there will still be major disruption at Calais as the French government has said it will enforce sanitary and customs checks on exports from the EU, which will lead to long delays.
“For consumers, this will reduce the availability and shelf life of many products in our stores.”
If Britain were to set the import tariffs at zero, it could have a“devastating impact” on UK farmers who still face tariffs exporting to Europe.
The letter ends: “We are therefore asking you to work with your colleagues in Parliament urgently to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no deal Brexit on 29 March and removes these risks for UK consumers.”