The Home Office has continued to face criticism for spending thousands of pounds printing knife crime stories on fried chicken boxes with the campaign branded "a farce" and "racial stereotyping".

More than £57,000 was spent on some 321,000 chicken boxes distributed to around 210 shops which feature the Government's #knifefree campaign message.

But the plan came under fire almost as soon as it was announced on Wednesday, with MPs and members of the public labelling it "embarrassing", "stupid" and "borderline racist".

The criticism continued on Thursday as a charity leader - who said his son was stabbed 11 times last year and his grandparents were victims of the Windrush Scandal - accused the Home Office of racial stereotyping with the campaign.

Speaking on Channel 4 News, the chief executive of youth charity United Borders Justin Finlayson said: "The campaign is a complete farce."

He said if the department had asked the charity's thoughts on the idea, they would have been told it was "not appropriate", adding: "It's racial stereotyping at the very least.

"It's associating something as hard as knife crime and trivialising it by comparing it to chicken.

"Why are we concentrating and fixating again on black youth and chicken?

"Why not Asian food or fish and chip shops too?"

But Evan Jones, from the St Giles Trust, defended the idea saying it was a "serious attempt by the Home Office to get the message out there" and he did not accept it was "racial profiling", adding: "It's not the solution to knife crime, of course it isn't."

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.

The boxes currently replace the standard packaging at takeaways including Morley's, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbot said in a tweet: "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."

While Labour MP David Lammy said in a post: "Is this some kind of joke?!"

Home Secretary Priti Patel took to Twitter to hit back at criticism, saying it was a "shame to see" Ms Abbott "playing politics with knife crime", adding: "I will do everything in my power to stop it traumatising communities. I will not apologise for that."

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the chicken boxes would "bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer" when he announced the scheme.

The idea was rolled out after a trial of the boxes at 15 chicken shops in March. After positive feedback and research which suggested the majority of customers were aged 16-24, it was decided this was a way of effectively targeting young people as part of the knife crime campaign.

Focus groups are said to have backed the plan.

The Home Office said it would not be responding to further criticism levelled at the initiative.

By Flora Thompson