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Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
TV heroes 'fuelling bad eating'
The Simpsons
Parents said Homer Simpson promoted an unhealthy lifestyle
Children's TV heroes are having a negative impact on their eating habits, a survey finds.

Nearly two-thirds of 2,000 parents quizzed said cartoon character Homer Simpson - famous for loving doughnuts - promoted an unhealthy lifestyle.

Big Brother contestants were also criticised, with one in 10 complaining about their love of fry-ups and sweets, the poll by food chain Somerfield said.

Food experts said it could be a "potentially serious" problem.

Child obesity levels have shot up in recent years.

If it is having an influence as the survey suggests - and parents will know best - it is worrying
Paul Sacher, child health expert

Among two to four-year-olds, obesity has doubled since the early 1990s, while the rate has trebled for six to 15-year-olds.

The poll revealed more than half of parents admitted to succumbing to "pester-power" by buying children their favourite foods.

But 57% said they did so because they feared confrontation.

A Somerfield spokesman said: "The idea of television influencing kids' behaviour is nothing new, but its impact specifically on their eating habits is surprising.

"The research suggests that we need some new and credible role models that can help in the campaign to make healthy eating cool among kids."

Paul Sacher, founder of the Institute of Child Health's Mend Programme, which works with families on adopting healthier lifestyles, said it was a "potentially serious problem".


"TV can obviously have a huge impact on children's lives. If it is having an influence as the survey suggests - and parents will know best - it is worrying."

A separate survey of more than 1,000 schoolchildren also found that two thirds were failing to eat five portions of fresh fruit or vegetables a day as the government recommends.

The unhealthiest age group was 12-year-olds with only a fifth eating the correct amount, with a further fifth only eating one portion a day.

The survey also revealed primary schools were better at promoting healthy eating than secondary schools.

And children also showed a "worrying" lack of knowledge about where food comes from.

One in five thought beef came from pigs, one in eight said cheese came from butter and one in six claimed broccoli was a baby tree.

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