The umbrella body representing almost every doctor in the UK has criticised the sponsorship of the 2012 Olympics by Coca-Cola and McDonalds saying that it sends out the ‘wrong messages’ in a society where almost a quarter of adults are obese.
Spokesman professor Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “They clearly wouldn't be spending the money if they didn't benefit from being associated with successful athletes.”
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AOMRC) which has 200,000 members from across all medical specialities have united in what it describes as an “unprecedented” single campaign to tackle rising levels of obesity.
The campaign will start by reviewing the case for fat taxes, promoting exercise, restricting food advertising and other measures.
They want a ban on fast food companies sponsoring sporting events and criticised health secretary Andrew Lansley’s approach to tackling the obesity epidemic which trusts the food industry to voluntarily cut calories, reduce portion sizes and advise the public on healthy eating.
Prof Stephenson, said the government's current strategy of "partnering" food firms in order to tackle obesity "might be seen as counter-intuitive".
Almost a quarter of adults in the UK are thought to be obese and some predictions suggest half of children will be obese or overweight by 2020, with Prof Stephenson saying they were "storing up problems for the future".
"This is a huge problem for the UK. It's much bigger than HIV was, much bigger than swine flu."
Prof Stephenson said: "Every doctor I've ever spoken to feels obesity is a huge problem for the UK population."
He said a united voice had "more of a chance" of tacking obesity.
The first phase of the campaign will try to find out what works. It will review evidence for diets, exercise, taxation, minimum pricing, changing advertising and food labelling, which medical procedures work and how children are educated.
A McDonald's spokesperson said the Olympics was "the biggest catering operation in the world," adding: "Sponsorship is essential to the successful staging of the Olympics."