It is not easy being a potato. Centuries ago, famine blighted its life; today the threat comes from a trendy diet.

The potato-free Atkins Diet, devised by Dr Robert Atkins, has triggered a slump in spud sales, while the rising popularity of rarer vegetables and designer lettuce leaves has added to its woes. Now the British Potato Council is launching a £1m campaign to chip away the bad image.

Sales of potatoes fell by 10 per cent last year, and the council believes the Atkins Diet is a main reason. Followers of the diet eat unlimited meat, eggs and fish but can have only small amounts of carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes and pasta.

As part of the council's campaign, bags of potatoes will be labelled "Fab not fad". Fiona Hunter, a nutritionist for the council, said: "Not only are potatoes great for energy, but they are low in salt, almost fat-free, cholesterol-free and with important vitamins and minerals. Potatoes are packed full of essential nutrients the body needs."

Britons still munch their way through 38,000 tons of potatoes a week. Sadly, most are in chip form, and may contribute to swelling obesity levels.