Families’ fast-food diets bring scurvy and rickets back to U.K.

LONDON — 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 say.

Cases of scurvy and rickets have been on the rise in parts of the U.K., where some parents rely on takeout 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 Telegraph suggests that since the start of the credit crisis, consumption of fruit and vegetables has fallen in the U.K. at a faster rate than in western Europe as a whole, eastern Europe and the U.S.

On average, each person in Britain is eating four kilograms less fruit and vegetables a year than in 2007, a drop of three per cent.

Dr. Mark Temple, of the British Medical Association’s public health committee, said: “Food standards in the U.K. are worse now than they were during the rationing during the war.”

“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, four ounces of margarine and bacon (about four rashers), two ounces of butter and tea, one ounce of cheese and eight ounces 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.

The number of cases of rickets has quadrupled since the 1990s with almost 800 in England last year. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health estimates that one in four children suffers from a deficiency of vitamin D, which is taken from sunlight and some food such as oily fish. Among adults, deficiency levels are thought to be twice that.

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 12 ounces of fruit and vegetables each day, below the level of the Americans and the 14.1 ounces recommended by the World Health Organization.

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