The 14 Words

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Food poverty in UK has reached level of 'public health emergency', warn experts

The Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem


Hunger in Britain has reached the level of a “public health emergency” and the Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem, leading experts have said.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the effect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be “urgently” monitored.

A surge in the number of people requiring emergency food aid, a decrease in the amount of calories consumed by British families, and a doubling of the number of malnutrition cases seen at English hospitals represent “all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventative action,” they write.

Despite mounting evidence for a growing food poverty crisis in the UK, ministers maintain there is “no robust evidence” of a link between sweeping welfare reforms and a rise in the use of food banks. However, publication of research into the phenomenon, commissioned by the Government itself, has been delayed, amid speculation that the findings may prove embarrassing for ministers.

“Because the Government has delayed the publication of research it commissioned into the rise of emergency food aid in the UK, we can only speculate that the cause is related to the rising cost of living and increasingly austere welfare reforms,” the public health experts write.

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