Walkers crisp shortage leaves Leicestershire family desperate

By David Pittam
BBC News

Media caption,
Michelle says: "People think it's poor parenting... they don't really understand."

A couple are spending hours hunting for a specific type of Walkers crisp amid a national shortage as it is one of the only things their daughter will eat.

Due to an eating disorder, Walkers oven baked sea salt-flavour crisps form a major part of the diet of four-year-old Ava, from Narborough, Leicestershire.

But her mother Michelle says she is struggling to find any.

Walkers said it was working to resolve the supply problems and apologised for the inconvenience.

The disruption, which started last month, is due to a glitch caused by an IT upgrade.

Image source, Michelle
Image caption,
Michelle said she tried to shop for the packets online, but even stores advertising the product as in stock told her they had run out

Ava has a number of conditions, including avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and a condition that affects her development.

According to her mother, she only eats these crisps, toastie waffles and a specific kind of baby fruit puree.

She only drinks sweetened almond milk and a prescription vitamin mix.

Michelle said Ava would rather go on a drip than eat something she does not like.

They have been struggling to get hold of the crisps for almost a month.

Hospital fears

At one point Ava, who usually eats two packets a day, was without the crisps for five days and became lethargic and withdrawn.

"When your child relies on a food, and you can't get it, it's really hard," Michelle said.

"[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% a possibility," she added.

"It makes me very, very anxious. What seems like such a simple thing is huge for her."

She added many children with disorders that limit their eating tend to favour crisps, and she was aware of many families through social media who were also struggling.

Image caption,
There have been reports of empty shelves in some shops across the country

On Thursday, Michelle told the BBC News Channel the family had received messages online from people around the country offering to supply them with crisps.

She added: "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.

"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."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Supply disruption is set to continue for a few more weeks

Nicole Kirkland, co-founder of charity ARFID Awareness UK, said many often looked down on the condition and those dealing with it.

She said: "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 supply issues are expected to continue for several more weeks.

The Leicester-based firm is prioritising its more popular crisp flavours, such as cheese and onion and salt and vinegar.

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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