Suppliers have vehemently denied claims by Which? that they are taking advantage of lax regulations to market unhealthy foods to children.

In a report entitled Food Fables – The Second Sitting, Which? accused companies including Kellogg’s, Nestlé and Mars of continuing to target kids through the use of cartoon characters, film tie-ins, social networking sites and free offers.

Which? has called for the removal of characters such as Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger and Nestlé’s Quicky from cereals classed as unhealthy under the FSA’s Nutrient Profiling Model. It also cited Cadbury linking Creme Egg with the Bebo social networking site as an example of irresponsible marketing.

A spokesman for the Food and Drink Federation hit back, saying: “The only food fables are those you will read in this sloppy report, which lacks any real substance, is very subjective and paints a misleading picture of what is happening.”

Kellogg’s insisted it had successfully changed the way it marketed its products in line with the new regulations on marketing to under 12s. “All our promotions now focus on family entertainment, activity and education. In the UK, we are not using either third-party licensed characters to market to children or toy inserts in cereals.”