Coca-Cola is to stop aiming its TV commercials at children. The world's biggest soft drinks company said yesterday that it had abandoned so-called pester power advertising that tries to make children bully their parents into purchasing decisions.

The decision was made after growing criticism of food and drinks companies for encouraging children to consume sweet and fatty products, a trend blamed for an alarming rise in childhood obesity.

Martin Norris, communications director of Coca-Cola UK, said: "In the case of children under 12 the responsibility for consumption should be left in the hands of parents and guardians." He said the company had stopped advertising its fizzy drinks to children, and was extending the policy to all its brands, which include Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Oasis and Roo Juice, a fruity mixture aimed at under-fives. Under the ruling, these drinks will not be advertised during children's programmes.

Debra Shipley, Labour MP for Stourbridge and a member of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, said: "At last a manufacturer is recognising this is a problem. However ... there remains a need for legislation to prevent companies who continue to ruthlessly and aggressively target young children on television."

She said that she was sceptical whether Coca-Cola was committed to its stance, pointing to a recent Harry Potter competition run by the company. Mr Norris said the tie-in was part of a commitment to improving literacy. But Ms Shipleysaid: "They just want to sell more products."

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