Moves to outlaw TV advertising of ‘unhealthy’ food to children are gaining ground in the Commons.

A cross-party alliance of MPs is backing a bill aimed at prohibiting the promotion to children of foods high in sugar, salt and fat.

The measure also aims to give the Food Standards Agency new responsibilities to promote healthy eating for youngsters, including setting clear criteria for school meals.

Presented to parliament this week by Labour MP Debra Shipley, the bill is part of a sustained campaign to wean children off fatty, salty and excessively sugary diets.

“On children’s television at the moment, virtually all the food and drinks are overwhelmingly high in fat, sugar or salt,” she claimed.

“Some cereal products are over one-third sugar, though parents often buy them believing they are healthy as they are promoted as something which children should have on an everyday basis.”

The Children’s Food Bill is supported by more than 100 national bodies, including the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Surgeons, the British Dental Association, the Institute of Public Health and the Women’s Institute.

Although it cannot enter statute in the current session, the bill is intended as a “political marker” to focus government attention on demands for tougher action.

Concern over children’s diet has been fuelled by the increasing incidence of diabetes and obesity.

Shipley, MP for Stourbridge, said the bill would also place specific responsibilities on the FSA to examine medical evidence, make assessments and set criteria - such as ensuring school meals are not high in salt.