Crisps, sweets and sugary drinks could be put in plain packaging like tobacco products according to a leading thinktank.

The IPPR says the measure should be introduced to help combat obesity and other preventable diseases.

In a report the body says eliminating the impact of branding and advertising would put unhealthy foods on a "level playing-field" with fruit and vegetables.

However the Scottish Government said it had no plans to look at the idea, while critics labelled the scheme "heavy-handed" and "insane".

All tobacco products must be packaged without branding, in deliberately unappealing muddy green packets since May 2017. Applying this to unhealthy foods would be a radical measure but could reduce "major risk" from preventable diseases the IPPR report claims. It says diseases such as obesity and diabetes are repsonsible for almost one in five deaths.

The IPPR report, Ending the Blame Game: The case for a new approach to public health and prevention, identifies smoking, obesity and alcohol and substance abuse as three main contributors to preventable disease.

As well as plain packaging, which it says would encourage people to consider "unbranded" fruit and vegetables, it argues for a ban on TV advertising of such products before the 9pm watershed.

It says the 'sugar tax' on fizzy drinks should be extended to cakes and sweetened drinks, and the proceeds invested in sports facilities.

Meanwhile a levy on supermarket profits could be used to pay for community cooking classes.

The IPPR report argues that failing to prevent ill health puts a greater burden on poorer communities, contributing to shorter life expectancies.

Tom Kibasi, IPPR director, said: “It’s time to end the pro-obesity supermarkets by putting fruit and veg on a level playing field with crisps and confectionery. Plain packaging would help us all to make better choices and reduce ‘pester power’ for busy parents.

“Most people haven’t had a pay rise for a decade, so rather than punish people with higher taxes on food, we want to help Britain eat healthy, home-made food.”

Dean Hochlaf, IPPR Researcher and lead author of the report, said: “Too many people, especially the most disadvantaged in society, are suffering unnecessarily from preventable ill health. People have some personal responsibility for their behaviour, but that does not excuse government shirking its collective responsibility for safeguarding people’s health.”

But Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Head of Policy at the Scottish Retail Consortium said all foods could form part of a healthy diet, if eaten in moderation. "These heavy handed proposals fail to engage with the complexity of consumers’ relationship with food," he said.

"Even ignoring how difficult it would be to practically implement the IPPR’s approach, such a measure flies in the face of the enormous work done by retailers to provide clear traffic-light nutritional labelling to allow consumers to make an informed choice.

"Scottish retailers don't oppose proportionate evidence-based measures which will encourage consumers to make healthy choices. We're sceptical these proposals pass that reasonable test."

Matthew Lesh, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said: "These proposals are insane, authoritarian and seriously lacking in evidence. Sadly the expletive words of choice to describe this proposal are simply not fit for print. The British people are sick of this type of extremist, nanny statist paternalism.

"The treating of everyone like children must come to an end. The plain packing proposal would create a grey, boring, dystopian scene in our supermarkets and corner shops."

He claimed evidence shows plain packaging has not reduced levels of smoking, and added: "It is a totally unproven fantasy that people eat confectionery over fruit because of the packaging."

David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance, said: "To apply plain packaging in the food and drink sector would render some of the world’s most iconic brands unrecognisable, changing the look of household cupboards and supermarket shelves forever. Plain packaging also means losses in the creative industries, including design and advertising services.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Tackling obesity is a public health priority. Our Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan includes a wide a range of bold measures designed to help families make healthier choices.

"We are currently considering responses to our consultation on restricting in-store promotions and marketing of food that is high in fat, sugar or salt with little or no nutritional benefit. The consultation does not include proposals to introduce ‘plain packaging’ for these products.”