Published: 27/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5907 Page 7

The government has been 'complacent' in addressing the growing obesity epidemic, according to a Commons health select committee report on obesity, published today.

In the strongly worded report, the committee calls for a ban on junk-food advertising for children and tighter control of how the food industry markets its products to young people.

A source close to the committee said the report would be 'very, very hard hitting' and the government will be criticised for taking too long to tackle the issue. 'It is a question of all the principal parties - industry, the Department of Health and ministers - working together, ' the source added.

The report will criticise softdrinks companies for the content of their school drinks machines, and producers of junk food which use celebrities in their advertising campaigns.

The report will also recommend that health warnings are put on food labels indicating high levels of fat, sugar and salt.

In a bid to head off criticism, the government announced last week that it is to establish a Cabinet committee specifically to address the question of obesity. It will be chaired by health secretary John Reid.

The committee, which will seek to formalise plans on the regulation of junk-food advertising to children, is expected to call for ministers from key departments - Culture, Media and Sport;

Transport; and Education and Skills - to get together, as well as local government.

lLabour MP for Stourbridge Debra Shipley has presented a private member's Children's Food Bill to parliament. Developed by Sustain, an alliance which campaigns for better food and farming, the bill requires the Food Standards Agency to specify criteria for unhealthy and healthy food and prohibit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.