A group of MPs say that fictional cartoon characters, like Tony the Tiger and The Milky Bar kid, should be banned from being used to promote unhealthy food to children.
The Health and Social Care Select Committee has proposed a blanket ban on ‘brand-generated characters or licensed TV and film characters’, like superheroes, which are used to promote foods high in fat, sugar or salt.
But characters such as the Jolly Green Giant could continue to be used to promote healthy food, the committee says.
The proposed ban is an effort to reverse shocking rates of childhood obesity after figures showed that one in 25 children aged 10 or 11 in England were now classed as ‘severely obese’.
The government’s childhood obesity plan already includes a sugar tax on fizzy drinks, with talks this tax may be extended to include milk-based drinks such as milkshakes.
Other recommendations from the committee include a ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm TV watershed.
Supermarkets should also be forced to remove confectionery and other unhealthy snacks from the ends of aisles and checkouts. And junk food price promotions, such as multi-buy discounts should be restricted, the MPs added.
They are also calling for a ban on sponsorship by brands associated with unhealthy products at sports clubs, venues and youth leagues.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP and chairwoman of the health select committee, said: ‘Children are becoming obese at an earlier age and staying obese for longer.
‘The consequences for these children are appalling and this can no longer be ignored.’
Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, agreed with the committee, adding: ‘The committee is right, the key to a reduction of obesity is prevention and we must not hang around, action must be taken now.’
But Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said the UK had ‘among the strictest rules in the world’ on promoting products that are high in fat, sugar and salt to under-16s.
‘We remain of the view that measures such as a 9pm watershed would be ineffective in tackling the complex root causes of childhood obesity which are linked to a whole range of factors, including socio-economic background, ethnicity and educational attainment,’ he said.
While a Department of Health spokesperson said its plan to tackle childhood obesity was ‘the most ambitious in the world’.
They said: ‘We are in the process of working up an updated plan, and will be in a position to say more shortly.’
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