ONE BILLION pounds in extra food has been bought by customers in the last three weeks amid coronavirus panic, a senior MP has said.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said that there "there is no shortage of food" and that manufacturers are making 50 per cent more food than usual.

Speaking at the government's daily news conference, Mr Eustice said: "The Prime Minister and I have spoken to the retail sector, and there is more than enough food to go around, and our food supply chain is able to expand production to cope with increased demand.

"In the last week, sales of some foods have increased significantly, and manufacturers have produced around 50 per cent more food than they usually would.

"There is no shortage of food available, and more is arriving at shops every day. The challenge that all of our retailers have faced is keeping shelves stocked throughout the day in the face of increased purchasing behaviour."

As previously reported, shops across the country, as well as North Hampshire, have seen shelves wiped over previous weeks, especially fresh meat, toilet roll and hand sanitiser.

"We all have a role to play in ensuring that we come through this together," Mr Eustice continued.

It comes as Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that "we should make sure we eat some" of the extra food stockpiled over the last few weeks.

"The food retailers that I'm talking to every day really wanted to underline that message about encouraging everybody to be considerate in what they buy.

"It's much more about how we all work together."

Meanwhile, Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for NHS England, said that panic buying is taking food away from NHS workers.

"I would like to make a plea on behalf of our my colleagues in the NHS, who are working incredibly hard at the minute to manage this outbreak, and are preparing for the surge that they know will be coming at them.

"It's incredibly important that they too have access to those essential supplies that they need.

"I know that many of you would have seen a video posted by Dawn, a critical care nurse, who was in tears at the end of a long shift because she could not get access to the supplies that she needed.

"Frankly, we should all be ashamed that that has to happen. It's unacceptable. These are the very people that we will all need to look after us and our loved ones in the weeks ahead."

However, Mr Eustice said that it was better for supermarkets to decide on limits on products themselves, rather than them being rationed by government.

"The reality is that most of the supermarkets are already putting in limits on certain items, so I don't think it's necessary to dictate this," he said.

He added that the government have scrapped the plastic bag charge for online orders, whilst time limits for lorry drivers have been relaxed to help spread the supplies they have.