A ban on confectionery at till points and aisle ends and the use of cartoon characters to promote foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) is being called for by an influential committee of MPs.

The Health and Social Care Committee’s report into childhood obesity comes a matter of weeks before the government is expected to publish its refreshed version of the childhood obesity plan.

The Committee has identified several key areas which it says demand attention, “as a matter of urgency by the government before the next chapter of the plan is finalised.”

The committee is calling on the government to “level the playing field for retailers and act to ban confectionery and other unhealthy foods from the ends of aisles and checkouts.”

It also wants a ban on cartoon characters or licensed TV and film characters from being used to promote HFSS foods on broadcast and non-broadcast media and a 9pm watershed on “junk food advertising.” 

In addition, the government “must regulate to restrict the discounting and price promotions which drive higher volumes of consumption of unhealthy food and drink,” the committee said.

“This does not need to make food more expensive as retailers could change their offers to healthier products,” it added.

Chair of the committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said: “Children are becoming obese at an earlier age and staying obese for longer.

“Obesity rates are highest for children from the most disadvantaged communities and this unacceptable health inequality has widened every year since records began.

“The consequences for these children are appalling and this can no longer be ignored.

“Government needs to further help reduce childhood obesity by introducing tougher restrictions on the marketing and advertising of junk food, including by bringing in a 9pm advertising watershed.

“It should also act to protect children by banning the offers and displays that push high volume sales and impulse buying of junk food and drink.

“I welcome the sugary drinks levy that has already played a vital role in driving reformulation and call for this to be extended to milky drinks which contain added sugar.”