Food Safety and a UK Citizen’s Income

A Citizen’s Income, in the UK, Could Help to Maintain Food Safety in the Home

This page argues that a citizen’s or basic income could provide a solution to recent problems associated with poverty and food safety.

The food poverty context and its affect on safety

Common cases of food poisoning could have increased since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008. Poverty could be leading to people eating ‘out of date’ food. If people’s incomes fall then they will have less money to spend on food. This could encourage them to keep food for longer than they should. The UK Food Standards Agency has acknowledged that people are taking risks with food and are ignoring ‘use by’ dates (link no longer available). Another concern is that expenditure on food consumption could be reduced given that it can be squeezed by rising utility bills. These are fixed and cannot be reduced easily in the way that food spending can. Food safety messages, urging consumers not to economise on food safety, may be overlooked given the poverty which people are suffering.

A citizen’s income

Communication, on the need to eat food within use by dates, will only be acted upon if people have a sufficient income. A ‘citizen’s income’ could help make sure that people do have adequate funds. This should be enough so that the public are not eating ‘out of date’ food. Economic policy needs to make sure that each member of the public has an adequate income so that they can eat properly. This includes enough money to buy sufficient fruit and vegetables. The video below provides further justification for a citizen’s income.


If people have adequate funding then food safety advice, from the Food Standards Agency, is likely to be put into practice. The achievement of food safety objectives is beyond the scope of the Food Standards Agency. Intervention from the Treasury is needed so that people have a basic income.

Video: Why the precariat requires a basic income

Guy Standing (below) argues that people in precarious (and lowly paid) employment need a basic income.

A Negative Income Tax in the UK to Reduce Food Poverty

An article in the Guardian discusses the concept of an unconditional basic income or citizen’s income. However, a ‘negative income tax’ could be more cost-effective than a citizen’s income. A negative income tax would not be paid to individuals on substantial incomes, who do not require financial support. Consequently, the cost to the taxpayer would be reduced while targeting financial support at those most in need.

An example of a negative income tax, in practice in April 2016, would be:

An individual earning below £4,000 would receive £4K from the state.

An individual earning between £4,000 and below £6,000 would receive £3K from the state.

An individual earning between £6,000 and below £8,000 would receive £2K from the state.

An individual earning between £8,000 and below £11,000 would receive £1K from the state.

An individual earning £11,000 would neither receive any money nor pay any tax.

It was argued above that a similar policy is needed to improve food safety amongst the poor. The argument here is that Milton Friedman’s negative income tax (see top video) could help avoid hunger and malnutrition (and see the bottom video). A negative income tax or a citizen's income should substantially reduce the public reliance on food banks in the UK.

Milton Friedman: The Negative Income Tax

Food Poverty in the UK from Vice News - Newcastle upon Tyne