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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 23:07 GMT
Sports stars blamed for obesity
Beckham promotes Pepsi
David Beckham and other stars advertising sweets and fizzy drinks have been blamed by MPs for helping children to become obese.

The attack came from the chairman of the Commons health select committee, as it questioned advertisers on their impact on children.

Former England football captain Gary Lineker was another sporting icon under fire from Labour MP David Hinchliffe.

Advertisers said they boosted certain brands, but not unhealthy food overall.

Labour MPs Debra Shipley and Howard Stoate are among those pressing for a complete ban on advertising fatty and sugary foods on children's television.

On Thursday, the health committee heard how Walkers' sales had risen steeply after winning Lineker's endorsement.

Role models of that nature have to look to what they are doing in respect of the wider health messages they are giving
David Hinchliffe
Commons health committee chairman

Mr Hinchliffe said multi-millionaires were getting richer through the adverts and he argued that stars were responsible for the lending their names.

Evidence suggested people like Beckham, who promotes Pepsi, and Lineker did boost overall consumption of drinks and snacks, he said.

Mr Hinchliffe continued: "This is a huge public health crisis we are facing in this country and other countries.

"Role models of that nature have to look to what they are doing in respect of the wider health messages they are giving."

MPs health complaints

Andrew Brown, director general of the Advertising Association, told the committee that tennis stars had boosted the market for bananas by eating them at Wimbledon.

But for children under-10, Gary Lineker was a television personality, not a sports star, he said.

Where are the chips?
Protest in a customer complaint book in the Commons canteen, during a week-long experiment in selling just "healthy" food
Mr Brown insisted the drinks and snacks market were only growing at a tiny level, and adverts only pushed up demand for different brands.

Earlier this week, the chairman of Britain's food watchdog warned that child obesity due to poor nutrition and lack of exercise was a "ticking timebomb" for life expectancy levels.

Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Authority, called for changes to food marketing and an end to celebrity endorsements of unhealthy meals and snacks.

Meanwhile, a week-long experiment in the House of Commons canteen to sell just "healthy" food has not met with universal approval from MPs.

A number of protests have been registered in the customer complaint book. One says: "Where are the chips?"

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