British health campaigners are calling on the UK Government to ban sports stars from promoting junk food over claims that athletes are earning millions by fuelling obesity among children.
Gary Lineker and David Beckham are among the sporting figures that secure fortunes promoting Walkers crisps and Pepsi and Burger King respectively, while Olympic medallists are cashing in on lucrative deals in the aftermath of London 2012.
The UK Government recently announced the introduction of "traffic-light labelling" to help end confusion about which are the "healthiest" and "unhealthiest" foods but experts want more action.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, a London-based cardiologist, says that with one in three children in the UK obese or overweight by the age of nine it will take half a century for the problem to be overcome.
"Look at the smoking ban - introduced about 50 years after the first scientific evidence emerged on the dangers of smoking. We've started to see evidence on the dangers of a poor diet on children with the increase in obese kids and diabetes, but the food industry is powerful and it will push arguments and 'evidence' saying its products are not dangerous," The Independent quoted Malhotra, as saying.
According to the paper, Lineker has been the face of Walkers for 17 years. Another report shows why: between 1995 and 2000, Lineker campaigns helped increase sales by 105 per cent. He earned 1.5 million pounds for the five-year deal he signed in 2000 and another lucrative three-year deal was signed in January.
Malcolm Clarke, from the Children's Food Campaign (CFC), also criticised fast-food companies for their "vague health promises" and called on them to stop using sports stars to promote their products.
"Athletes tap into a mind-set - that if I eat that food I can look like that, have a body like that and achieve sporting success. It is clever marketing, and any healthy pledges are very vague and non-accountable. If you don't choose one of Subway's "5g of fat or less" sandwiches then the numbers are far less rosy. Sugar and salt content is still very high," he said. (ANI)