Posts Tagged ‘Scurvy’

Vox Political on the Return of Victorian Diseases in 21st Century Britain

November 1, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has an article on the return of diseases, such as rickets, which were rife in 19th century Britain due to malnutrition, bad sanitation, overcrowding and generally poor conditions. He reports that Samuel Miller, a researcher into social security and one of his commenters, would like this investigated. His article begins with the answer to the question posed by its title, Will the Tories ever admit their ‘welfare reforms’ are reviving Victorian diseases?

Social security researcher and commenter Samuel Miller thinks they are.

He wants health authorities in the UK to investigate whether the return of diseases linked to poverty – and to the Victorian era – such as gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets and whooping cough.

This Writer flagged up the possibility as long ago as October 2013, after the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of rickets.

I wrote: “Can there be any doubt that this rise in cases has been brought about, not just by children sitting at home playing video games rather than going out in the sunlight, as some would have us believe, but because increasing numbers of children are having to make do with increasingly poor food, as Cameron’s policies hammer down on wages and benefits and force working class people and the unemployed to buy cheaper groceries with lower nutritinal value?”

Despite Tory claims that the UK is in better shape than it has been in years, it seems clear that these health issues are getting worse.

His comments about people in the low income groups having to feed their families on foods with poor nutritional value, simply because they can’t afford anything, is entirely correct. Remember when Jamie Oliver did a series on Channel 4 attempting to teach a town oop north to cook properly, because some survey or other had shown it was the place where the most people stuffed themselves and their children with chips and burgers? One of the most revealing pieces of that programme was when one woman burst into tears, explaining that the reason she fed her children such low-grade comfort food was simply because there weren’t any shops near her, which sold the green veg and wholesome meat cuts he was demanding.

You think of the way traditional greengrocers and butchers, like Jones’ is the favourite TV show, Dad’s Army, have disappeared from our high streets, driven out by vast supermarkets like ASDA or Sainsbury’s. These have their advantages in terms of choice and so on, but for many people they can only be reached by car, rather than a simple walk down the road like the traditional shops. In many instances, all that remembers of local food shops is the fish and chip or Chinese or Indian take away.

Not that you can expect the Tories, or probably anyone else to do anything about it, as they’re too busy receiving donations from the supermarkets to ever want to change their policies. I’ve no doubt that there may be other solutions, such as making sure there’s proper access to supermarkets by bus, but that also means interfering in another local service, which the Tories and the rest of them have told us would be improved by its deregulation by Maggie back in the 1980s.

And so it’s far easier for the government to put an extra tax on sugar, and claim they’re doing something about the ‘obesity epidemic’, than to tackle the problem of malnutrition and even starvation in its entirety.

And no, I don’t think you’ll ever hear any of the Tories confess to a link between their social security policies and the return of Victorian diseases like rickets. That would contradict all the lies Ian Duncan Smith has been telling us about how no-one’s really poor in Britain, and the only people using food banks are scroungers and malingerers, who are doing so out of choice.

Economy Food for Toffs: Cheap Means Under £20 per portion

December 13, 2014

I’ve just reblogged a couple of piece from Tom Pride and Johnny Void criticising Baroness Jenkins and similar patronising rich journalists, who have written in the Telegraph about how they would do a better job of feeding themselves than the dirt-poor folks, who actually have little choice about the type and quality of food they can afford.

The good Mr Pride shows the double standards behind Baroness Jenksins’ opinion that the poor should eat porridge instead of going to food banks. She may find it offensive that the poor are foregoing this simple meal in order to rely on public charity, but she and her brother, Bernard Jenkins, have absolutely no qualms about taking money from the public purse themselves.

Johnny Void has a more serious, factual piece about the comparative costs of the cheap foods that could feed a family living on the edge of starvation. This gives the lie to the Baroness’ statement that somehow porridge is a cheap food. It isn’t.

Just as important is the nutritional content of the food. As we all had it drummed into us at school, you need a balanced diet with the right amount of vitamins, protein and veg. You cannot survive and live healthily on just porridge. Back in the 1990s there was an urban legend going round about a student at Edinburgh University. Instead of spending his student loan on good, nutritious meals for himself, this particular lad decided instead to buy a vast amount of oats and live off porridge for the year. By the end of this, he was then taken off to hospital as the first person to come down with scurvy in the Scots capital for 200 years.

It’s an urban legend, and so not true, but it does give some idea of the dangers of trying to follow the stupid advice given by people like Jenkins, who haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.

A more glaring, and grotesque example of this is a cookbook a friend of mine had given to him. This claimed to be a book showing how one could eat well by making cheap meals. What they meant by a ‘cheap meal’, was one that cost about £20 per person. One of the recipes was for a salmon dish, which advised the reader to try and purchase the best salmon from a fishmonger. All the recipes were in this price range, so that my friend estimated that if you actually followed the book’s advice, then the cost of cooking all this for a family of four for a week would be about £500.

Billy Connolly made jokes about this type of cookbook in one of his shows. He’d got hold of a book of recipes from the 1920s, and compared its contents with the reality of buying food when he was growing up in Glasgae toon. One of the recipes included melons. The book advised its readers to be selective, and choose only the best melons from Afghanistan. Connolly compared the book’s attitude with the way veg was sold out of vans when he was a lad, and imagined what would have happened if you’d asked if the melons they had were Afghan. ‘Ah dinnae,’, replies the greengrocer, ‘Ah dinnae whaet it is. Ah thought it was just some kind of weird apple’. It wasn’t just in Scotland that people bought their vegetables from mobile vans. The same thing happened down south here in Bristol when I was growing up in the 1970s as well. And I imagine you’d have got pretty much the same response from the greengrocer if you’d started asking picky questions about whether or not they were Afghan too.

The impression my friend had from the cookbook was that it was written by and for the extremely affluent, who really did seem to think, like certain Tory MPs, that if you had an income below £60K you really were slumming it. It’s the same snobbish attitude that informs Baroness Jenkins’ ignorant pronouncements, and the patronising recipes in the Torygraph.

And while these rich aristos and journalists waffle on about things they know nothing about, the truly poor are starving unnoticed in front of their eye, but beneath their contempt.