Two public nutrition academics have called in the British Medical Journal for tobacco-style controls to fight global obesity.
They accused the food industry of supplying misleading information, using supposedly conflicting evidence and hiding negative data to resist attempts to limit the sale of unhealthy products.
Mickey Chopra, a senior lecturer at Western Cape University, South Africa, and Ian Darnton-Hill, an associate professor at Columbia University, New York, claimed that global strategies similar to those used against the tobacco industry were needed to tackle an obesity epidemic.
They said that marketing and advertising restrictions and tax measures to reduce demand for unhealthy products were needed.
Martin Paterson, deputy director general of the Food and Drink Federation, called a "nonsense" the equating of the food and tobacco industries: "Over-excited conspiracy theories can do nothing but help undermine what should be a mature debate aimed at workable solutions."
Broadcasting regulator Ofcom is expected to publish a review of codes on promoting foods to children this month. The Food Standards Agency plans to produce guidelines for healthier meal options at schools by the autumn and nutritional criteria for children's products by March 2005.