Call for ban on cartoon characters used to promote junk food to children

A leading group of MPs have called for the removal of cartoon mascots on junk food products aimed at children.

The Health and Social Care Select Committee has called for the banning of the likes of Tony the Tiger and the Honey Monster which are used to promote foods high in fat, sugar or salt on television and advertising hoardings.

Healthy animated role models like the Jolly Green Giant could continue to be used to promote vegetables under the new recommendations.

Ban on pre-watershed junk food ads

Gicing evidence to the committee celebrity chef Jamie Oliver said that cartoons and superheroes should not be used to "peddle rubbish". Instead they should be used to promote healthy foods, he added.

Further recommendations made by the committee include a ban on junk food adverts before the watershed and the removal of confectionery from the end of aisles and checkouts.

The Jolly Green Giant would be exempt from any blanket bans (Photo: Green Giant)

The Government should also give local authorities more powers to "limit the proliferation of unhealthy food outlets in their areas". This could mean councils able to limit junk food and drink billboard advertising near schools.

The recommendations come in the wake of a report which found that a third of children are overweigh tor obese when they leave school.

The MPs also called on the the Government to end sponsorship deals by brands overwhelmingly associated with high fat, sugar and salt products of sports clubs, venues, youth leagues and tournaments.

Staunch defence

Advertisers were quick to defend the animated characters.

Commenting on the report, Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said the UK has "among the strictest rules in the world" on advertising 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.

But Oliver offered a counter view, saying that tackling the issue would take an enormous effort and a great deal of political will.

"The Committee are absolutely right. There are no silver bullets,' said the celebrity chef.

"The Government needs to launch a multi-pronged strategy that pulls every possible lever to help support better outcomes for our kids.

"In turn, we need to make healthier food cheaper and more easily available for parents.

"Theresa May needs to own this now. The future of the NHS is at stake."