Up to 74 morbidly obese children are estimated to have been taken into care over the last five years, according to figures obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
And over the last three years, 183 children aged under 12 were found to weigh more than 16 stone; the heaviest boy was 23st 2lb while the heaviest girl was 22st 11lb.
Out of 206 local authorities responsible for child protection in Scotland, England and Wales, 128 council told the Daily Mirror that 26 to 46 morbidly obese children were taken into care. Some provided approximate figures out of concern to avoid identification of the children. This suggests that 41 to 74 children were taken into care nationwide.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “This is not an issue about children who might be a few pounds overweight. This is about protecting those facing significant and possibly even life-threatening problems.”
Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said letting children get so obese at such a young age was “quite simply child neglect and abuse”.
“I understand the reluctance of social workers to act until medical professionals have seen the children. But once a care order is obtained, no delay on their part is acceptable. It is a national tragedy that so many children are now, quite rightly, being taken into care,” he said.
And Virginia Blake, a lecturer in obesity at the College of Contemporary Health, said that childhood obesity was “now got out of hand”.
“This demonstrates that we do not have adequately trained health care professionals or a dedicated care pathway to manage this problem,” she said.
However, Rhian Jones, an eating behavioural expert who also works at the College of Contemporary Health, said taking a child into care while they were young could “perpetuate the problem that needs to be treated”.
“Obese children commonly see food as a comfort and therefore removing their parental comfort will inevitably take them down the road to their next favoured comfort - food,” she said. “Removing the child from their parent must surely be the last resort.”