William's parents are adamant that he will be allowed to carry on reading the book, even if they have to send him to a new nursery.

Parents of children attending the Wibble Tots Nursery in Rochford, Essex have reacted angrily to the manager’s decision to ban The Very Hungry Caterpillar from all sessions at the centre.

According to Penelope Papillon MA, reading the story to very young children about the caterpillar’s ‘non-stop eating’ and transformation into a ‘beautiful butterfly’ could lead to ‘bad eating habits and obesity’ further into their childhood and adult lives.

In an email to all parents and carers, Mrs Papillon said: ‘It is with great regret that due to a parent’s complaint, we have had to remove all copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar from our nursery library, along with all of the toys that are linked to the book.’

‘We cannot give any details about the complaint for confidentiality reasons, but it would appear that one of our children was found at home one evening feeling very ill on the kitchen floor after eating one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake and one slice of watermelon.’

‘Once he had been to Southend Hospital to have his stomach pumped, it emerged that a member of staff had read the story during ‘circle time’ earlier in the day, and we are 100% sure that the book’s contents encouraged him to eat the contents of his parents’ fridge in a reckless manner.’

She added in a comment about the Eric Carle classic today: ‘We have expressed concerns to Puffin Books and Penguin Books in the past about the book encouraging terrible eating habits and childhood obesity – in real life our children cannot simply sleep off excessive overeating and just shut themselves away in a cocoon.’

‘Until the book is reprinted with just healthy snacks and a moderate amount of exercise we cannot leave ourselves open to legal proceedings, and luckily on this occasion this child’s parents have agreed to take no further action.’

‘I have received hundreds of messages of support, and I may even start a childhood health awareness campaign to get the book removed from more schools and libraries.’

However, the ban has not gone down with a number of parents whose children attend the nursery. Jonathan and Marie Lucas have been sending their 18-month-old son William there since his first birthday, but now they have admitted that they are considering moving him elsewhere.

Mother Marie said: ‘This is a disgraceful example of the Nanny State gone mad, and Mrs Papillon must be off her rocker if she thinks that The Very Hungry Caterpillar is going to encourage children to binge on food.’

‘William loves the book and it has encouraged him to start counting, learn colours and identify different types of food – he can read his own copy at home for as long as he likes.’