Leicester: Smoke rises from Walkers Crisps factory
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As a result of an eating disorder, four-year-old Ava relies on Walkers oven-baked sea salt flavour crisps as a major part of her diet. Walkers has faced shortages as a result of supply issues, which were caused by an IT glitch last month leaving Ava’s parents unable to find the crisps. The Leicestershire youngster suffers with a number of health conditions, including avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and a condition that affects her development.
Her mother, Michelle, told the BBC she only eats the specific flavour of Walkers crisps, toastie waffles and a certain type of baby fruit puree.
She only drinks sweetened almond milk and a prescription vitamin mix.
When Ava was without the crisps for five days – which she usually eats twice a day – she became lethargic and withdrawn.
Speaking about the issue, Michelle said: “When your child relies on a food, and you can’t get it, it’s really hard.
“[Me and my husband] go looking round the shops for the crisps every day for an hour or two.
“We have a big extended family and everyone is looking out for them too.
“There’s not a huge nutritional value in the crisps but the salt helps. It makes her drink more.
“[If she doesn’t have them] it makes her really sleep, she lays around and doesn’t have enough energy.”
“Our big fear is having to go to hospital and if we cannot find these crisps, that’s 100 percent a possibility.”
Michelle, who has been struggling to get hold of the crisps for more than a month, said her daughter would rather be put on an IV drip than eat a food she doesn’t like.
She added: “It makes me very, very anxious. What seems like such a simple thing is huge for her.”
Michelle said that, for children with eating disorders, relying on crisps is not uncommon, adding that she has encountered other families on social media who are struggling with a similar issue.
However, she said that she has faced a negative response from people who hear about her situation.
Speaking to BBC News, Michelle said: “There is a lot of people that experience this at all ages, but there has been a lot of judgement and a lot of very, very negative comments.
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“This is a registered eating disorder and a lot of people don’t really understand learning disabilities, autism, sensory eating or ARFID so there are misconceptions about what it is.”
However, she also said that people around the country have offered to help, by supplying them with crisps.
Nicole Kirkland, co-founder of charity ARFID Awareness UK, said many people often look down on the condition and those dealing with it.
She told the BBC: “It often deals with complex carbohydrates and processed foods, just by the very nature that they are consistent, so you end up with crisps, white bread, cereal or fast food fries, so it can come across as lazy parenting.
“It really opens itself up to judgement but this is not just a kid that is a fussy eater.
“The mum is doing the best she can and unfortunately there is very little in the way of help and support for people out there.”
Walkers has said that the supply issues are expected to continue for several more weeks.
A spokeswoman said: “We’re doing everything we can to increase production and get people’s favourites back on shelves. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience caused.”
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