Over half of food and drink products featuring popular cartoon characters are high in fats, saturated sugar and salt, new figures show.
Health groups Action on Sugar and Action on Salt are calling for a ban on these characters, such as the Frozen princesses and the Despicable Me minions, being used to market junk food to kids.
Characters from Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol were named the worst offenders, with half of the surveyed products featuring these children’s favourites deemed unhealthy.
More than a third of these were sweets, chocolate, cakes or ice cream.
Peppa Pig Candy Bites were singled out for containing 99 per cent sugar, and Mr Moo’s Quick Milk Magic Slipper Strawberry was 94 per cent sugar.
Kinnterton’s Paw Patrol mini chocolate bars contained more than 60 per cent sugar and 17 per cent saturated fat.
The lobbyists have accused manufacturers and retailers of “deliberately manipulating” children and parents.
They said if these products were forced to follow the same advertising standards as on television, half would be banned.
Nutritionist Dr Kather Hashem from Action on Sugar said it is time for regulation.
“It’s shocking that companies are exploiting the health of our children by using cartoon characters on their high sugar food and drink products, particularly on chocolates and sweets, which are already hard to resist.”
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson says the research “reveals the scale of irresponsibility in the industry”.
"We’re in the midst of a child obesity crisis and companies are using cartoons to advertise their junk foods to kids. It’s unacceptable.”
Last month a group of MPs proposed a ban on cartoons and fictional characters in advertising unhealthy food.
Other recommendations included a ban on junk food TV ads before 9pm.