An Australian health organization has called for a ban on the use of cartoon characters to hook children into buying junk food.
The Obesity Policy Coalition noted that marketers are increasingly using cartoon characters like the Paddle Pop Lion and Freddo Frog to lure children to unhealthy foods.
The organisation said the federal government should ban them from using such characters and giveaway toys to promote junk foods, the Age reported.
A coalition spokesman, Professor Boyd Swinburn, said cartoon characters were the common factor used to draw children to fattening foods and drinks but companies were now using free online games, apps, movies and other new media to promote unhealthy food.
Professor Swinburn said self-regulation had failed because some companies refused to sign up to industry codes and loopholes often allowed companies to escape criticism.
A Deakin University senior lecturer, Paul Harrison, said the food industry had allowed stricter rules on traditional advertising - whose power is on the wane - while developing online games, movies, product give-aways and health sponsorships.
These platforms "flew under the radar"of regulators, Dr Harrison said.
In Advances in Communication Research to Reduce Childhood Obesity, released this month, Dr Harrison looked at the integrated marketing campaigns used for Nutri-Grain, Freddo Frogs and McDonald's Happy Meals and how they appealed to children.
He said marketers often cleverly used no logos to avoid criticism, but instead used characters and colours associated with their products.
He further pointed out that advertising regulators and industry codes were failing to keep up with technology and marketing changes.
A single authority should look at whether marketing was designed to appeal to children regardless of the medium, he said.