Consumer mag Which? has found that a majority of parents wants fast food companies to stop using cartoon heroes like The Simpsons, Bratz, Shrek and Spider-Man to promote products high in fat, sugar and salt.
A spokesman for the watchdog said that if the obesity problem has to be solved then the Government needs to clamp down on companies using cartoons to attract kids to their products.
"Cartoons are seen as a surefire way to attract children," the Daily Mail quoted the spokesman, as saying. "Our research shows 89 per cent of parents believe cartoon characters are put on foods to encourage children to ask for them.
"It found that 75 per cent think it is irresponsible for companies to put cartoon characters on unhealthy foods. An overwhelming 74 per cent of parents felt companies should be stopped from using them in this way."
Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies said: "There are precious few examples of cartoons being used to promote healthy products. "Our research shows that the majority are being used to encourage children to eat fatty, sugary and salty foods.
"We are calling on companies to no longer use cartoons to promote unhealthy foods. With parents fed up with the amount of marketing aimed at their children, it also makes commercial sense for cartoon brands to distance themselves from unhealthy food products.
"Regulation should be put in place to protect children from all forms of irresponsible marketing of unhealthy foods." Companies have already taken steps to stop promoting junk food. Disney has discontinued a partnership with McDonald's that saw toys modelled after its characters being given away in Happy Meals.
However the communications director of the Food and Drink Federation, Julian Hunt, said that he was "disappointed" with the timing of the report. "We are disappointed with the timing of this report because we are working with stakeholders, including Which?, via the Department of Health's advertising and promotion forum to look at areas such as packaging," he said.