Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has criticized sporting stars such as David Beckham for promoting junk food to children.
In an open letter published in The Times newspaper, they wrote: "On the eve of the London Olympics we, a group with a vested interest in improving the health and well-being of young people, express our grave concern about this trend. It is totally perverse that some of the main sponsors of the greatest sporting spectacle in the world are McDonald's and Coca-Cola. We believe it is wrong for athletes to encourage the excessive consumption of such items, which are fueling poor health and obesity.
Advertisement"David Beckham is a great sportsman, yet he has endorsed Pepsi. What about the impact of [former England footballer] Gary Lineker's association with Walkers crisps? Or the partnership between Mars and the [Football Association]?
"Food companies, well aware that such foods have little redeeming nutritional qualities, are able to trigger the so-called 'halo' effect by associating them with sport. Yet diet-related diseases are reaching global epidemic proportions. With one in three children in Britain overweight or obese by the age of nine, we have a public health crisis that requires urgent intervention," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted the letter as saying.
Signatories to the letter included London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, who said it was horrifying that some of the main sponsors of the Olympics are McDonald's and Coca-Cola."
"One vital step in reducing the consumption of obesogenic products is to end the association of sporting role models with junk food. The very lucrative financial gain for these athletes is sadly at the expense of our children's health and we should not allow this to continue."
Another signatory, the president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health Dr Hilary Cass, said that people "shouldn't underestimate the fascination that many children and young people have with celebrities; whether that's teenage girls skipping meals to look like the latest airbrushed magazine model - or boys wanting the same brand boot as their footballing idol."
"Sporting role models in particular can send a powerful message to children when it comes to their health and fitness. Instead of glamorizing junk food, they should be using their influence to inspire children and young people to become tomorrow's top athletes by eating well and leading active lifestyles," the letter read.
Oliver has long campaigned against junk food advertising. He has pushed for healthier meals for schools and visited school kitchens as part of a television campaign to help staff remove fatty foods from their menus.