Children see three to four times more advertising for fatty and sugary foods than adults and are being "saturated" with unhealthy food, a report by the National Food Alliance says.
The paper, Easy to Swallow, Hard to Stomach, found that 7 out of 10 adverts during Children's ITV are for food compared with only 2 out of 10 during adult programming.
Although government guidelines for a healthy, balanced diet recommend that fatty and sugary foods should account for no more than 7 per cent of our diet, the survey found advertising for these food made up 44 to 76 per cent of all food advertising.
During programming for children breakfast cereals (mostly sweetened) and sweets were the most intensively advertised food products. Much of the rest was for soft drinks, fast foods, ice cream and lollies. Out of 549 food adverts monitored only two were for fruit and vegetables, although it is recommended these should make up 33 per cent of a healthy diet.
The NFA wants the Government to support pilot projects to investigate how to promote healthier foods. It should also tell the Independent Television Commission not to transmit adverts for fatty and sugary foods during children's viewing.
The Food Advertising Unit claimed advertising is far less influential than family and peers. Jeffrey Goldstein, Professor of Psychology at the University of Utrecht, said restrictions would have undesirable economic and psycho-social effects. "Children would be isolated as a social group . . . and regarded as incapable of making their own decisions," he said.