LONDON — The parents of an 11-year-old boy were arrested in Britain on suspicion of neglect and child cruelty after authorities grew alarmed about the child’s weight.
The boy, who like his parents was not identified, weighed 210 pounds. Doctors and social workers concerned about his welfare had called police after he was brought in twice for treatment, The Sun newspaper reported Friday.
The parents were arrested in March after being questioned by police in King’s Lynn, in Norfolk. The father, 49, and the mother, 44, were released on bail, a police spokeswoman said.
The family was reunited, and last week, in a letter of intent, the couple agreed to improve their son’s health.
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The boy is 5-feet, 1-inch with a body mass index (BMI) of 41.8, the newspaper reported. That is higher than what is classified as obese for an average adult male and is “very overweight” for a boy his age, according to Britain’s National Health Service.
“He’s always been big,” the father told The Sun. “He was born with shovels for hands and spades for feet. Our son’s favorite snack is steamed broccoli — and he’s still big.”
In a statement, police said “obesity and neglect of children” were sensitive issues, but its child-abuse investigation unit worked with health-care and social-service agencies to ensure a “proportionate and necessary” response.
Police said: “Intervention at this level is very rare and will only occur where other attempts to protect the child have been unsuccessful.”
Britain’s health service considers obesity — defined as a BMI of at least 30 — as one of the biggest threats to public health, as it is in the United States and other Western countries. Obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and cancer cause at least 35,000 deaths a year in Britain, according to the health service. The country has one of the highest obesity levels in Western Europe, surpassed only by Malta and Iceland, according to a study published recently in The Lancet medical journal.
The study found that two-thirds of men and more than half of women in Britain were either obese or overweight. The government estimates 28 percent of British children ages 2 to 15 fall into those categories.
The government has tried to encourage more healthful habits by improving labeling on food and drink packages, and running television ads promoting more healthful diets and exercise. It has also asked companies to pledge that they will reduce the salt, fat, sugar, alcohol and calories in their products.
Cadbury, the British confectioner, recently said it would stop making chocolate bars in Britain with more than 250 calories.