TV adverts for food and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar are still being shown during programmes most watched by children, according to research by consumer body Which?

The group said today (22 September) that adverts for several products, including Coca-Cola, were broadcast during programmes watched by children but not covered by new restrictions, introduced in January this year.

Its research showed that none of the programmes with the five highest child audiences, and only four of the top 20, are covered by the restrictions under existing Ofcom rules.

Which? food campaigner, Clare Corbett, said: "The ad restrictions may look good on paper but the reality is that the programmes most popular with children are slipping through the net. If these rules are going to be effective, then they have to apply to the programmes that children watch in the greatest numbers.

Ofcom is currently reviewing the existing rules, which are based on the proportion of the audience made up of under 16s, rather than the actual number of children watching.

This means that programmes such as The Simpsons and Spongebob Squarepants are covered while shows like Emmerdale are not, even though they are watched by more children.

A Coca-Cola spokesperson said: "At Coca-Cola we are committed to responsible marketing and comply fully with all Ofcom regulations. We believe parents should choose the drinks that are right for their families so, for many years, we have not marketed any of our drinks in the UK to children under the age of 12.

"Our commitment to responsible marketing means we constantly monitor and change ad placement as appropriate, using industry data to measure audience composition."

A spokesperson for The Food and Drink Federation added: "The analysis is flawed - as it overlooks the fact that these programmes are highly popular with adults, which means children are almost certainly watching them in the company of mum and dad.  

"It's clear from our analysis that companies are trying to reach an adult audience with their scheduling of adverts, and the content of these commercial messages is clearly aimed at adults as well."