The number of miles that consumers travel to buy their grocery shopping and heavy goods vehicles travel to deliver food has increased 15% in the 10 years to 2002, a Defra report has found.

The report also revealed that food transport has an estimated £9bn a year social and environmental impact - increasing road congestion, road accidents, climate change, noise and air pollution.

Consumers travel an average of 898 miles a year to shop for food compared with 747 miles a decade ago and the quantity of food transported by HGV’s has doubled since 1974, it said.

Launching the report, food and farming minister, Lord Bach, said: “Internet buying and home delivery can reduce road congestion and vehicle kilometres. Organic and seasonally available food can reduce environmental impacts, but these can be offset by the way they are transported to the consumer’s home.”

The Food and Drink Federation said that the industry was already trying hard to create a fuel efficient and low pollution supply chain,

The British Retail Consortium added that a sustainable policy had to balance the demand for year-round, high quality, affordable foods with any impact that it may have on the environment through transportation.