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Government policy 'causing obesity'

Child poverty and obesity are going to get worse in the coming years because of Government policies, campaigners have claimed.

The warning came after public health minister Anna Soubry said people can pick out children from poor families because they tend to be fat.

Miss Soubry said when she was at school pupils from deprived backgrounds tended to be "skinny runts", but cheap and easily available junk food meant the situation had reversed.

The Child Poverty Action Group said cuts in Government support for the low paid and unemployed would make obesity worse. Miss Soubry's comments, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, came after she threatened food manufacturers with legislation unless they cut the amount of fat, sugar and salt in products.

She told the newspaper that the culture of "TV dinners" had eroded traditional structures of family life and led some homes to dispense with a dining table entirely. The Tory MP said it was "heartbreaking" that the poorest in the country were among the most at risk of obesity.

She said: "A third of our children leave primary school overweight or obese. When I was at school you could tell the demography of children by how thin they were. You could see by looking at their eyes."

They would be described as "the skinny runts" because they were not getting the right food, she went on, adding: "When I go to my constituency, in fact when I walk around, you can almost now tell somebody's background by their weight. Obviously, not everybody who is overweight comes from deprived backgrounds but that's where the propensity lies."

She added: "It is a heartbreaking fact that people who are some of the most deprived in our society are living on an inadequate diet. But this time it's an abundance of bad food."

Imran Hussain, head of policy at Child Poverty Action Group, said: "Obesity, in this country and in other developed countries, is linked to deprivation. 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."

Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said: "The Government is doing nothing to tackle Britain's obesity crisis. It is clear that their voluntary approach is not working. Too many large retailers aren't signed up to the Responsibility Deal and ministers have let their expert public health group collapse."

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