In a report published in the British Medical Journal, Steven Cummins and Sally Macintyre from the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit said there was a lack of information to support the theory.
They said the term food desert Â which has been the basis of government policy Â had been reported and repeated to the extent that it was now considered a fact. And they claimed to have found weaknesses in the main studies that support the idea of food deserts Â defined as poor urban areas where residents cannot access healthy food.
Tim Lang, professor of food policy at Thames Valley University, said: "I think they have over-egged their pudding. The report only refers to three pieces of research into food deserts, when in fact there have been many more studies."
Lang said he welcomed the debate because it would bring the topic out in the open.