Published: 03/06/2004, Volume II4, No. 5908 Page 5

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital trust is to stop allowing McDonald's to distribute burgers and fries in its children's wards after the initiative came under widespread attack.

The trust's decision followed a complaint from the grandmother of a four-year-old boy who was offered a voucher, which came to the national media's attention last weekend.

Last week, the Commons health select committee urged the government to impose a ban on junk-food advertising aimed at children.

The week before, public health minister Melanie Johnson said the government had not ruled out 'restricting exposure to food advertising for children' as part of its forthcoming public health white paper.

Norfolk and Norwich head of communications Andrew Stronach said the trust had requested that McDonald's staff did not give out vouchers again.

'As in many other children's units, McDonald's staff come to the ward every week and are supervised by hospital staff.

Parents and children are offered toys and balloons and it is up to them to accept them or not.

'If this has offended anyone we can only apologise, but it has been done in the interests of making life for those sick children stuck in hospital a little more bearable.

'This is the first complaint we have received about the visits by McDonald's staff and this is the first time that vouchers have been handed out.'

He added: 'The nursing staff have talked to the parents and the feeling is that parents are able to make their own decision about whether to accept the toys and balloons.'

The trust does not have a McDonald's restaurant on site as some others do, such as Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital trust in London. Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge has a Burger King on site.

The publicity follows Cabinet disagreements about sponsorship of school projects by chocolate manufacturers.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell defended sports minister Richard Caborn's endorsement of a promotion by Cadbury's, which offered sports equipment to schools if pupils collected enough chocolate wrappers, after Commons leader Peter Hain described the initiative as 'pretty indefensible'.

Transport minister Kim Howells also spoke out against the Get Active promotion, which has now been withdrawn.