Britain's poorest families could save money and enjoy more nutritional meals by eating stale bread, Jamie Oliver has suggested.
The multi-millionaire chef said most low-income families do not know how to feed themselves properly and instead choose expensive options such as ready meals. Oliver, 38, who has an estimated fortune of £150m, said that he finds it "hard to talk about modern-day poverty."
In an interview with The Radio Times he said he was "not judgemental" of poor families and pointed to his experiences of people on low incomes whilst filming his previous TV show.
He told the magazine:"You might remember that scene in Ministry Of Food, with the mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of Styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive TV. It just didn't weigh up."
He insisted: "Some of the most inspirational food in the world comes from areas where people are financially challenged.
"The flavour comes from a cheap cut of meat, or something that's slow-cooked, or an amazing texture's been made out of leftover stale bread."
Oliver, whose new show, Jamie's Money Saving Meals, is designed to help people save on their food bill, added: "The fascinating thing for me is that seven times out of 10, the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families. The ready meals, the convenience foods."
The Naked Chef said: "I meet people who say, 'You don't understand what it's like.' I just want to hug them and teleport them to the Sicilian street cleaner who has 25 mussels, 10 cherry tomatoes, and a packet of spaghetti for 60 pence, and knocks out the most amazing pasta. You go to Italy or Spain and they eat well on not much money. We've missed out on that in Britain, somehow."
Oliver's comments were met with angry criticism online. Many Twitter users pointed to the price of producing his recipes and how he promoted ready meals for Sainsbury's rather than urging people to their local farmers' market.
Imran Hussain, Head of Policy, Child Poverty Action Group, said in a statement: "Jamie Oliver has made a huge contribution to improving school meals and we're grateful for the support his foundation has given us in our work on free school meals.
"He is right to say that healthy food doesn't always have to be expensive.. but for many families it's low income which gets in the way of healthy eating. As official statistics show, parents of poor children are much less likely to be able to afford fresh fruit for their children. We also know from the evidence that as the incomes of poor families rise, they spend more on things like healthy food and children's clothes."
Jamie Oliver's championing of healthy food has seen him open flagship 'Ministry of Food' centres in five regions to provide healthy cooking workshops and community cafes for residents.
His outspoken campaigning made headlines in May after he compared unhealthy packed lunches with child abuse and said the Government should do more to improve school meals.