|Shrek and Scooby Doo : Fat
London, Feb. 24: The food industry was accused yesterday of using children's characters such as Bagpuss, Shrek and Scooby Doo to promote foods high in salt, sugar and fat.
A study by the consumer group Which' found that 18 popular characters from film and television were being used to market sugary snacks, crisps and processed food.
It accused food manufacturers of manipulating parents and encouraging 'pester power' and called for a review into the way children's characters were licensed.
According to a Which' survey of 2,000 people, more than three quarters said the use of cartoon figures on junk food made it harder for parents to say no to their children.
Nick Stace, of Which', said: 'Licensing companies and food manufacturers have to take responsibility to tackle the diet and health crisis. The Food Standards Agency needs to develop a standard setting out nutritional criteria for when these characters can be used.'
The childhood obesity epidemic of the past few decades has triggered concerns at the influence of junk food advertising.
Nearly a third of children are overweight, while 16 per cent of two- to 15-year-olds are clinically obese.
Food campaigners are also concerned at levels of salt in children's processed foods.
One of the products highlighted ' a small tin of HP's Bagpuss pasta shapes in tomato sauce ' contained 3.75 g of salt, almost double the 2 g of salt a child aged between one and three should consume in a day and more than the 3 g recommended for a child aged four to six.
The food and advertising industries said that they were working with the government to tackle childhood obesity.
The Advertising Association said its code of advertising was under review but it believed more could be achieved if the industry helped the government and food companies to 'educate and motivate' people into improving their diets.
A spokesperson for Kellogg's said: 'We are committed to responsibly marketing our brands and communicating their intrinsic qualities so that our customers can make informed choices.'
A spokesperson for Nestl' said: 'We work closely with industry and government bodies and this includes the review of our own and industry practices and guidelines.'
A White Paper on public health recommended restrictions on advertising and promotion to children of foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar.
The government hopes this will be done through voluntary agreements, but has given the industry a deadline of 2007 to act.