Tory Health Minister Anna Soubry caused an uproar today, saying the poor children she once branded "skinny runts" now tended to be obese.
Campaigners immediately hit out at her comments in the Daily Telegraph, laying the blame for increasingly poor public health firmly at the government's door.
Ms Soubry said the most deprived children used to be called "skinny runts" because of malnourishment, but now the abundance of cheap junk food meant "the propensity" of overweight children came from deprived backgrounds.
She said parents were at fault for introducing a TV-dinners culture, doing away with dining tables and stable routines.
But campaigners pointed out that obesity is linked to deprivation across the developed world.
Child Poverty Action Group's head of policy Imran Hussain said: "Rather than blaming parents, ministers should look at the piles and piles of evidence that make it absolutely clear that the real reason why our obesity problem is going to get bigger in the years ahead is because our child poverty problem is going to get much bigger as a result of the government's own policies."
Head of campaigns at charity Family Action Rhian Beynon said: "It is no surprise these families are turning to unhealthy food given food inflation of 35 per cent over five years and cuts to financial support for families in and out of work.
"We agree that family routine is vital to providing a stable home but if the health minister wants to champion healthy eating she should stand up for vulnerable families and insist that they do not bear the brunt of austerity cuts."
Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said the government is doing nothing to tackle Britain's obesity crisis.
"If the government fails to act we will continue storing up huge problems for the country and the NHS in the long term," she added.
Ms Soubry's comments came after she had threatned food manufacturers with legislation unless they cut the amount of fat, sugar and salts in their products.
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