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EDITIONS
Working Lunch Monday, 17 March, 2003, 16:10 GMT
Basket case
Vinyl floot
It's goodbye to vinyl flooring
We all know that the rate of inflation is based on a basket of goods.

But what exactly goes into that basket and why?

There are certainly some strange ingredients in the 650-strong list used by the government's Office for National Statistics.

In the latest reshuffle, out go:

  • Basket of goods
    tinned spaghetti
  • brown ale
  • dry cat food
  • vinyl floor coverings

    And in come:

  • designer specs
  • kebabs
  • pet booster injections
  • dental insurance.

    The basket is updated every year to reflect changes in the public's tastes.

    Mangles

    When it was first compiled in 1947 it contained items such as wild rabbits and mangles - how things have changed!

    The increasing use of convenience foods Basket of goods
    and takeaways means it makes sense to have Pot Noodles and burgers on the list while frozen fish in sauce gets the elbow.

    "Households appear to be changing their eating habits to cope with busy lives, changing tastes and leisure patterns," says Len Cook, the national statistician.

    Other things which have had their day include women's shoe repair, battery powered clocks, electronic keyboards and men's belts.

    Shower gel

    The amount we spend on leisure activities and personal care products is now factored in, through items such as golf green fees, horseracing admissions and hair and shower gel.

    In last year's overhaul, frozen prawns were favoured over tinned salmon while processed cheese was added instead of loose tea.

    The latest changes will feed into February's inflation figure, due to be announced on Tuesday.

    And what are they expected to add up to?

    Cost of oil

    At the moment inflation is rising slightly. But of those 650 items in the basket, it's only a few which are having a real impact.

    "Fuel prices, predominantly the rising cost of oil because of the effects of the Iraqi conflict," says Neil Parker of the Royal Bank of Scotland, "and house price inflation, although there are some signs it is slowing in big cities.

    "That is weighing on the retail prices index, pushing it much, much higher."

    .

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