Picture used for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Gulf News archives.

London: The British government is looking at plans to have retailers cap the prices of basic food items such as bread and milk, the Telegraph reported, as the cost of such essentials continued to rise in the double digits.

However, asked about such price controls, health minister Steve Barclay told BBC TV it was “not my understanding” on Sunday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s No. 10 Office is in talks with supermarkets on a deal similar to one in France where major retailers charge the “lowest possible amount”, the Telegraph reported on Saturday.

The PM’s office did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment on the report, which cited sources within the government.

“My understanding is that the government is working constructively with supermarkets as to how we address the very real concerns around food inflation and the cost of living and doing so in a way that is also very mindful to the impact on suppliers” Barclay told BBC TV.

Britain has western Europe’s highest rate of inflation for food, with prices up more than 19% over the past year, the worst such run since the 1970s. Household budgets have also been strained by surging energy prices, driven higher partly by the war in Ukraine.

Major supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s have announced price cuts on some food items in recent weeks.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents all the major supermarkets, blamed the government’s new regulation for many of the costs, and urged it in a statement to simplify rules “rather than recreating 1970s-style price controls.” “This will not make a jot of difference to prices. High food prices are a direct result of the soaring cost of energy, transport, and labour, as well as higher prices paid to food manufacturers and farmers,” BRC’s Andrew Opie said.