Children who eat a regular diet of food which is specifically marketed to appeal to them could be at risk of future health problems such as obesity, diabetes and even cancer, consumer watchdogs have warned.
Products targeted at youngsters, many of which use cartoon characters and colourful labelling, can confuse and mislead parents about what they actually contain, the Consumers' Association said.
They asked a nutritionist to analyse two daily menus of food a child might consume based on the claims and marketing messages made on the products.
Dr Helen Crawley concluded that to follow such a diet on a regular basis would be damaging to a child's health.
She said it could increase the risk of becoming overweight, as well as increasing the danger of diseases such as tooth decay, diabetes, cancers and heart disease in later life.
The Consumers' Association called on manufacturers to take action to make sure products aimed at children did not contain higher levels of sugar, fat and salt than products aimed at adults.
They also said that cartoons and images aimed at children should not be used on these products.
Their "honest labelling shop" highlighted a number of concerns about labelling of child products.
While packets of drinks showed "an abundance" of fruit, only a tiny percentage of the product was actually made up of that fruit.
Many tinned products were higher in sugar and salt than the adult equivalents.
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