Girl With Autism At Risk Of Starving Because Tesco Discontinued Its Potato Alphabets

A mother is seeking help for her five-year-old autistic daughter who’s now in a “life or death situation” after Tesco decided to discontinue the only thing she wanted for supper – potato alphabet shapes. Nicola Passey, 31, from Rugeley, Staffordshire explained to the Mirror that Ruby’s condition makes her extremely selective of the things she eats.

Nicola details that her daughter “would rather starve than eat anything else.” The youngster knows Tesco’s own brand of potato alphabet shapes. According to the worried mother, “if they smell different, are different sizes, are a different color, she just won’t eat them.”

Ruby is used to having the potato letters either with chicken dippers or turkey dinosaurs. If it’s just the chicken or turkey, she will refuse to eat.

It was only three weeks ago when Nicola found out that the giant supermarket wouldn’t stock the potato letters anymore. She tried to shop online but failed to order more. Upon contacting her local stores, she was told that Tesco would discontinue the product.


Their friend was able to salvage six packs, but now that they only have four left, Nicola and her husband are afraid of what might happen to Ruby.

“She’s more anxious now and she’s started to make excuses to not eat already, saying things like she has tummy ache. She’s drinking less now too. It’s as serious as a life or death situation. I get angry but then I can’t get angry with her, I can’t force her to eat something.”

Nicola also asks people to understand the matter. Some might think that she’s being petty, but people who have experiences in handling children with autism know that her problem is serious. She is making a plea for Tesco to bring back the vital food item.

“Tesco have told me that the product has been discontinued because of low sales, but I don’t believe a popular children’s product would sell less that something like potato croquettes that are still on the shelves. This is really important to us and there may be other families out there struggling with something similar who don’t have the courage to speak out.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Tesco said that their decision was a mere outcome of their regular reviews of the products being offered to customers. While the company remains firm that the product is no longer available, the spokesman claims that they will speak to Nicola about how they can help.

Just last month, Birds Eye sent 2,000 original chicken nuggets to a boy with Asperger’s and Advoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). Eight-year-old William Stocker is used to having the nuggets twice a day, but refused to eat them when the company changed their color and key ingredients.

“William eats them all year round, even for Christmas dinner. It’s so hard, we can’t take him to a restaurant, he won’t eat with us, he can’t even look at other foods. But he won’t, he would rather starve,” the mother also told the Mirror.

Even if it's McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, William just wouldn't eat them. [Image by Chris Hondros/Getty Images]

Apart from the nuggets, William’s lunch and dinner meals include red jelly, Mr. Kipling cakes, Jaffa cakes, chocolate mini rolls, and strawberries.

The boy’s parents appealed online to ask for the original nuggets’ version. Friends and strangers alike delivered their own stocks to the family. When Birds Eye was made aware of the family’s struggle, it immediately delivered original pieces of the nuggets as well as a bag of toys to William for free.

Birds Eye’s effort gave the family enough time to search for other food alternatives for William.

The Indiana University’s Center for Autism provides an overview of the feeding behavior children with autism typically exhibit. Some children only want to eat food with certain taste, texture, smell, and appearance. There are also those who would only eat their food in specific type of plate or container.

Some people might suggest using tricks on the kids. One of the common tricks is hiding supplements in the child’s favorite drink. The university warns that the strategy can backfire because if a child discovers that his or her familiar favorite has been altered, he will become “suspicious of all foods and will limit his or her diet even further.”

[Featured Image by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]