The inflation rate, measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), rose to 2.3% in February 2017, up from 1.8% in January.
Rising transport costs were the main contributors to the highest rate since September 2013.
Food prices increased for the first time in 31 months, rising by 0.3% between February 2016 and February 2017.
The new rate exceeds the Bank of England’s 2% target.
Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Rising inflation is a key risk to the UK’s growth prospects. Businesses continue to report that the rising cost of raw materials are squeezing margins, forcing many firms to raise their prices.”
Ann Leach, head of economic intelligence at the Confederation of British Industry, said:
“Inflation is likely to rise further still, on the back of stronger fuel prices and as the impact of the weaker exchange rate feeds through.”
Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, said:
“This should set alarm bells ringing reminding people that their buying power can change over a relatively short period of time and this can be particularly hard for those on fixed incomes, including many pensioners.”