Scurvy returns among children with diets ‘worse than in the war’
Wartime diseases are returning to Britain because some children are living on junk food diets that are worse for them than rationing was 70 years ago, officials have claimed.
By Steve Hawkes, Consumer Affairs Editor and John Bingham
9:28PM BST 03 Jul 2013
Cases of scurvy and rickets have been on the rise in parts of the UK where some parents rely on takeaways and microwave meals to feed the family, health staff warned.
Dietitians in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, said they were seeing an increase in both diseases, which were thought to have been consigned to history.
A new report seen by The Daily Telegraph suggests that since the start of the credit crisis, consumption of fruit and vegetables has fallen in the UK at a faster rate than in western Europe as a whole, eastern Europe and the US.
On average, each person in Britain is eating 8lb 13oz (4kg) less fruit and vegetables a year than in 2007, a drop of 3 per cent.
Dr Mark Temple, of the British Medical Association’s public health committee, said: “Food standards in the UK are worse now than they were during the rationing during the war.”
He added that it was a “strong indictment on the food industry”. “Obesity is a major health threat and we ought to be doing something about it,” he said.
Wartime rationing began in January 1940 and one person’s typical weekly allowance was one fresh egg, 4oz of margarine and bacon (about four rashers), 2oz of butter and tea, 1oz of cheese and 8oz of sugar.
Sioned Quirke, a dietitian in the Rhondda Valley, said she believed that for some population groups, diet and nutrition were as poor as 100 years ago.
“The difference between now and then is that this is out of choice,” she said. “People say that fruit and vegetables are not affordable when in fact they are.
“Rickets and scurvy are coming back. When I was training 10 years ago we were told about these as past conditions.”
Rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D and calcium, and can lead to bone deformities. Scurvy is triggered by vitamin C deficiency, which causes joint pain and a swelling of the gums.
Eight-year-old Dylan Seabridge of Cardigan, west Wales, allegedly died from scurvy 18 months ago. His parents Glyn and Julie are facing trial, charged with neglect and ill treatment.
A report by food experts at the Dutch bank Rabobank claimed that on average Britons eat 12oz (346g) of fruit and vegetables each day, below the level of the Americans and the 14.1oz (400g) recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Cindy van Rijswick, one of the food analysts, said: “The UK economic crisis had a larger effect on consumer habits than in other countries such as Germany, where there wasn’t much of an effect at all. Also, the impact of promotions, advertising and marketing from the processed food industry is higher than in other countries.”