Tesco has been slammed by health campaigners after launching an in-store raffle of a hamper of chocolate Easter Eggs to raise money for its partnership with Diabetes UK.

The retailer was forced to apologise on Twitter and has removed the prize from the store involved, although both it and Diabetes UK defended the promotion of the treats when approached today.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a leading adviser for campaign group Action on Sugar, described the move by Tesco as “some sort of sick joke”. But Douglas Twenefour, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK said: “Occasional treats, such as those high in sugar and fat, can be included in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet. It is important that people plan for such treats to ensure that they fit in their nutritional goals. But Easter only comes once a year and people with diabetes shouldn’t worry about the odd one or two indulgences, as these are unlikely to affect long term diabetes management.”

Tesco’s partnership with Diabetes UK has raised £20m since it was launched less than two years ago.

A Tesco spokesperson added: “The advice from Diabetes UK is clear – occasional treats are fine as long as they are part of a healthy balanced diet. In response to feedback from customers, we’ll find a new prize for this raffle.

“We’re incredibly proud that Tesco colleagues have raised over £18m for Diabetes UK and which will help to make a positive change to the health of the nation.”