Coronavirus: If you’re panic buying food, you’re an idiot – Stephen Jardine

Fearing coronavirus will lead to a food shortage, some people are panic buying and stockpiling food, potentially creating the problem they were afraid of.

A man prepares to buy 150 rolls of toilet paper at a store in Los Angeles (Picture: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

If you ever need to identify the stupidest person in the room, there is one sure fire way to find out. Simply ask who has ever stockpiled food after panic buying.

For proof, just turn to a headline in the Daily Mail this week, “Ocado warn of delivery delays as Brits start hoarding for a coronavirus outbreak”.

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It makes no sense whatsoever, as I know from personal experience.

When I was a child, my mum was spooked by the prospect of a national sugar shortage (possibly predicted by the Daily Mail).

In our house, a shortage of water or oxygen would probably have been greeted with less panic.

Sugar went into tea, cakes, pies, puddings, scones, biscuits and much else besides. Running out simply wasn’t an option.

As a result, after school I was dispatched on a tour of local shops to scoop up as much sugar as possible.

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Just when the bags completely filled a kitchen cupboard, the sugar crisis evaporated and my teeth have been paying the price ever since.

Panic buying is a curious thing and the clue is in the name.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines panic as “a sudden strong feeling of fear that prevents reasonable thought and action”.

In other words, there is no logical reason to buy what you don’t need.

If you are doing it out of fear that supplies will run out, the likely outcome is that disrupting anticipated sales and distribution will simply, hey, you guessed it, make supplies run out.

So while the deluded fill their trolleys with toilet roll, baked beans, toilet roll, UHT milk and even more toilet roll, the rest of us sit back and take it easy.

And if the panic does in itself lead to some empty shelves, there is always a last refuge available. They call it the traditional tinned goods shelf.

You just know companies like Fray Bentos have been waiting for panic food buying in the same way doomsday cults anticipate fiery armageddon.

When else is anyone going to buy a Steak and Kidney Pie in a tin with sell by date sometime in the next millennium?

Fray Bentos don’t seem to have any interest in food trends or fads. This is actually British Pie Week yet they make no mention of that marketing gift anywhere on their website or social media.

It’s almost like they are just sitting back waiting for the moment we all queue up for their products because there is literally nothing else to eat.

Which is a shame because a well-made pie is a wonderous thing and as British as Wimbledon and complaining about the weather.

At the popular end of the market, the Scotch Pie has had many a makeover and is now available in every variety you can possibly imagine.

At the top end, restaurants like the Holborn Dining Room have elevated it to gastronomic status with chef Calum Franklin creating a Pie Room dedicated to his mouth watering creations.

But that is for another day. In the meantime, please wash your hands and stay safe from Covid-19.

And if the worst comes to the worst, I’ll see you in the long queue for Toast Toppers, Heinz Steamed Puddings and Fray Bentos Cheese and Onion Pies.