Jamie Oliver has criticised sporting role models such as David Beckham and Gary Lineker for promoting junk foods.
The celebrity chef has joined health professionals and teachers saying the use of famous sports stars in junk food adverts was sending the wrong message to children.
In an open letter to The Times, signed by Oliver, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) president Dr Hilary Cass and others, the group expresses its "grave concern about this trend".
The letter says: "We believe it is wrong for athletes to encourage the excessive consumption of such items, which are fuelling poor health and obesity. David Beckham is a great sportsman, yet he has endorsed Pepsi. What about the impact of Gary Lineker's association with Walkers crisps? Or the partnership between Mars and the FA?"
It adds: "Food companies, well aware that such foods have little redeeming nutritional qualities, are able to trigger the so-called ‘halo' effect by associating them with sport. Yet diet-related diseases are reaching global epidemic proportions. With one in three children in Britain overweight or obese by the age of nine, we have a public health crisis that requires urgent intervention.
"We would ask athletes to be very conscious of the effect their endorsements may have on the future lives of youngsters. Obesity does not just carry physical consequences but serious social and emotional ones as well."
Other signatories to the letter are RCPCH past president Professor Terence Stephenson, National Association of Head Teachers president Steve Iredale, Children's Food Campaign director Charlie Powell and London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra.
By Kerstin Kühn
E-mail your comments to Kerstin Kühn here.
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Catererandhotelkeeper.com jobs