Under the 1989 Unicef convention on the rights of the child, as well as a right to food, children have a right to protection against ill-health and ill-treatment. In a world in which the obese now officially outnumber the starving, not enough is being done to engage indulgent parents who are loving their children to death, literally. Today the mother of eight-year-old Connor McCreaddie will attend a child protection conference. Now 14 stones, until recently he weighed in at 15 stones and eight pounds (98.8kg), nearly four times the weight of a healthy child of his age. Because his mother is unwilling or unable to curb his voracious appetite, Connor may be taken into care. This is an extreme case, but the situation is worryingly commonplace. In Scotland an average of one child per class is severely obese. This is not a question of harmless puppy fat. These children are at high risk of developing circulatory problems, heart disease and what we used to call "adult-onset diabetes". Very fat children suffer from low self-esteem, are subject to bullying and have difficulty participating in sport. In this respect obesity feeds on itself.

If we love our children we should be denying them unfettered access to the biscuit tin. Indulging the appetite of a gluttonous primary-aged child, though not technically illegal, amounts to a neglect of parental responsibility as grave as supplying him with alcohol or drugs. Do parents not notice the pounds piling on, or has our society become so dazzled by the notion of choice that we have forgotten how to impose limits?

There is a clear argument for intervention in Connor's case because his life is at risk, but this is not merely an issue of parental responsibility. Neighbours who fed the boy like a pet are also culpable, as is a health service that continues to focus on treating the consequences of obesity, rather than preventing it. Scotland may have been the first country to produce clinical guidelines for obesity and has been innovative in improving school meals and introducing free fruit and water, but progress has been slow on effective weight-loss programmes for children. Why are we still toying with the idea of regularly weighing pupils so as to flag up those who are dangerously fat? Why does the management of childhood obesity not form part of the Quality and Outcomes Framework for GPs? Why is the government only now placing limits on the television advertising of junk food to children and still wrestling with the industry over food labelling? We have a gigantic problem here which could eventually threaten the viability of the NHS, if we fail to tackle it.