Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig have been named as the worst cartoon characters for marketing unhealthy food aimed at children in a new investigation.
More than half of the products fronted by the popular characters contain extremely high levels of fat, salt and / or sugar, academics have found.
A study of 500 food and drink products which use cartoon animations on the pack also found that more than half would be banned from being advertised during children’s TV programming because they are so unhealthy.
The study by Queen Mary University of London highlights Kinnerton Paw Patrol Chocolate Bars, which contain 60 per cent sugar and 17 per cent saturated fat, and Peppa Pig Candy Bites, which have 99 per cent sugar, as particularly bad examples.
Campaigners have called for a ban on on-pack cartoon animations to stop manufacturers “deliberately manipulating” children and parents.
Dr Kawther Hashen, from Queen Mary University of London and Action on Sugar, said: “It’s shocking that companies are exploiting the health of our children by using cartoon characters on their high-sugar food and drink products, particularly on chocolates and sweets, which are already hard to resist for children.
“Do we really need to entice children to want these products more and pester their parents to buy then?
“It is time for regulation to curtail the industry’s unhealthy habits.”
The campaigners also raised concern about Heinz products which claim to provide “1 of your 5 a day” despite containing 40 per cent of a toddler’s maximum recommended daily salt intake in a single product unit.
Just 18 of the foods fronted by a cartoon character included in the review were healthy, the scientists found.
Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar, said: “Many of the food products exposed in our survey present a serious risk to the future health and welbeing of children.
“High sugar products increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, various cancers and tooth decay and high-salt products put up blood pressure, which leads to cardiovascular disease in later life.”