A five-year-old British boy has become one of the youngest children to be taken into care for being obese, it emerged last night.

Social workers decided the parents were doing too little to bring the youngster’s weight under control.

The child, whose identity is protected by law, had a body mass index of 22.6 - clinically obese for a five-year-old. He or she is thought to have weighed around 4 stone 4lb - a stone and a half more than average.

The decision was taken by officials at Tameside council in Greater Manchester.

The local authority has also taken a 14-year-old into care, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The teenager had a BMI of 30.3, giving a weight of 13 stone - five stone more than average. Another child was removed by Sunderland council, but officials refused to provide details of their age or weight, claiming it would breach data protection laws.

The Freedom of Information request sent to all local authorities asked how many children, in the past financial year, have been taken into care where obesity was cited as a contributing factor.

The vast majority responded and gave general neglect as the reason for instigating care proceedings.

In the previous year, 2009/10, four children were taken into care for obesity reasons.

This included three from the London borough of Lewisham aged three, ten and 15, and an 11-year-old from Northumberland.

In September this year, social workers in Dundee provoked outrage by removing four obese children from their parents.

Three girls aged 11, seven and one and a boy of five were placed into care to be “fostered without contact” or adopted.

The most recent NHS figures show that one in ten children starting primary school is obese. Overweight children are at far higher risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, asthma and cancer in later life.

Experts predict that obesity will cost the Health Service up to £6.3 billion a year by 2015.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the former Chief Medical Officer, warned in 2006 that healthcare chiefs would look at removing children from their families if they became so obese their health was at risk.

The first reported case came in 2007 when an eight-year-old girl from West Cumbria was taken into care weighing ten stone.

In 2008, seven children were removed from homes in England. These included a six-year-old boy from Derby, an eight-year-old girl from Cumbria who had to wear size 16 clothes, and children from Lincolnshire, Wolverhampton and Tower Hamlets in London.

A spokesman for the National Obesity Forum said it supported placing obese children into care, but only after everything possible had been done to try to reduce their weight.

“We sincerely hope that such occasions would be rare - but make the point that this would be the automatic response to a child at the other extreme - severe malnutrition,” the spokesman said.

A spokesman for Tameside Council said: “The point at which obesity turns into a child-protection issue is a complex and difficult area, and in these two cases there were other determining factors that led to the children being placed in local authority care.

“Parents should be supported to address their child’s obesity, and social workers should only act if parents fail to engage with the proposed plan to improve their child’s safety and wellbeing.”

David Simmonds, of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “Social workers use their professional judgment about how best to keep children from harm.” - Daily Mail