15/08/2019 07:17 BST | Updated 15/08/2019 08:59 BST

Diane Abbott Leads Backlash Over 'Offensive' Anti-Knife Messages In Chicken Shops

Home Office's #knifefree initiative to feature on more than 321,000 takeaway boxes.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has led the backlash against plans by the Home Office to put knife crime stories on fried chicken boxes.

An initiative to feature the government’s #knifefree campaign on more than 321,000 chicken boxes in England and Wales has been labelled “embarrassing”, “stupid” and “racist”.

The insides of the boxes are printed with real life stories of young people who have chosen to pursue positive activities, such as boxing or music, instead of carrying a knife, and have been distributed to over 210 outlets.

The move has already sparked an angry backlash from Labour, with Abbott calling the move ”crude and offensive”.

She said: “Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office have opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign.

“They would do better to invest in our communities not demonise them.”

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What’s next, #KnifeFree watermelons?”

Twitter users criticised the campaign for “borderline racism” as fried chicken is an old mainstay in racist depictions of black people.

Another Twitter user added: “Spending some money funding community outreach projects, social workers, job opportunities and schools too much effort for you then?”

Peter Grigg, director of external affairs at The Children’s Society, said: “More government investment is needed in education for young people about knife crime, healthy relationships, and exploitation, as well as in early intervention and prevention, and ministers must urgently address the £3bn shortfall facing council children’s services departments by 2025.

“This investment should be used to help children overcome challenges in their lives which may leave them more susceptible to risks outside the home but also to fund the youth clubs and services which provide the kind of positive activities highlighted in this campaign but which have been devastated by Government funding cuts.”

The boxes will replace the standard packaging at both independent and branched owned shops, including Morley’s, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.

“The government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police’s ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets.”