The price of baby formula is a “national crisis” that could have negative effects on a child’s health throughout their life, a doctor has said, as the Prime Minister suggested the government is doing enough to support families struggling to pay for food.
Dr Vicky Thomas, a consultant pediatrician with a special interest in growth and nutrition, made the comments after revealed a Sky News report Parents have been stealing baby formula and turning to the black market as rising prices drive them to desperation.
New data from First Steps Nutrition shows that the cost of the cheapest brand of formula milk has risen by 45% in the past two years.
Other brands have increased between 17% and 31% in this time period.
Dr Thomas has said that if parents struggle to pay for formula for their baby, it could be detrimental to the child’s health for “the rest of their future”.
She said: “Early childhood nutrition is absolutely key to your health.
“That’s when you leave your good bacteria. That’s when your gut learns to do what it’s supposed to do.
“That’s when you build a healthy brain and body.
“[Nutrition] it is key to building a healthy body and is the body the child will use for the next eighty years or so.
“This is a national crisis.
“It shouldn’t fall on individual parents, who have that guilt and shame, to have that concern.
“It is a social responsibility to raise a generation of healthy children.”
Two parents, who wished to remain anonymous, previously told Sky News how they resorted to theft because they could not afford formula.
Asked about the rising cost of produce, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said today: “I know the cost of living is the number one challenge facing British families at the moment… With food in particular, which is of course something we want help with, we have to recognize right now that there are challenges across Europe.
“We have special support for young families, something called Healthy Start vouchers, which provide money to young families [to help] with fresh food costs.
“But also the Home Support Fund is £1 billion that we have given to councils.
“Families can go and talk to their local council to get this extra support.”
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While Sunak said the government’s Healthy Start initiative was helping families, Rhiannon Evans, head of communications for internet forum Mumsnet, said vouchers were not enough to cover infant formula.
He said: “I think part of the problem with the price hike is that even the cheapest brand of infant formula exceeds the value of the government’s Healthy Start vouchers.
“If these vouchers no longer cover the price, they are not really fit for purpose.”
Clare Murphy, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advice Service, added: “This is a scandal.
“People should not be faced with these choices when they are simply trying to feed their baby safely… This should not be happening in 21st century Britain.”
She continued: “It’s scary that we’re having this conversation that you’re coming out and finding these kinds of stories.
“All these things that are happening are putting us on the brink of a public health crisis.”