Percy Pig could be killed off if government bans cartoons to advertise sweets

Could Percy Pig face the chop under government plans to fight childhood obesity? There are reports he may be in peril.

The Marks & Spencer sweets, introduced in 1992, have long been a favourite in Britain.

In May this year, Percy married Penny, who is also a gummy snack. The couple are joined on supermarket shelves by other pigs, including Percy Piglets.

Today, there is speculation the snacks – a mainstay of any train journey over two hours long – could be axed, or at least undergo a rebrand, as the Department of Health looks at proposals to remove cartoon characters from advertising directed at youngsters.

Ministers are looking at plans to prevent "licenced characters, cartoon characters and celebrities" as part of the government’s wider strategy to reduce obesity in children.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is leading a team tasked with finding new ways to encourage healthier lifestyles, a leaked document states.

Figures last week showed 22,000 children now leave primary school severely obese annualy.

Percy Pig is one of many brands in which playful cartoons are part of an overarching marketing strategy.

Were Hunt to follow through with the idea to rid products of their cartoon faces, presumably the likes of Tony the Tiger, the Honey Monster, and Colin the Caterpillar would also be under threat.

It would, in fairness, be an absolute bloodbath.

The Sun of Sunday says that restaurants such as Nando’s would also have to take action. As well as grilled chicken and sides of banter, Nando’s offers unlimited refills on sugar-laden fizzy drinks.

Mirror Online spoke to an M&S spokesman today, who said he could not comment on speculation. Though he did say Percy is a synonymous in British culture.

The gummy sweets first appeared in stores more than 25 years ago. The supermarket has a huge range extending past foodstuffs. You can buy socks and books too.

Despite all this being uncertain, the government is indeed under intense pressure to do more to combat childhood obesity.

Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are leading the charge and said while giving evidence last month it appears Theresa May is ‘pushing out’ previous plans first discussed with David Cameron.

If finalised, the new strategy could also include supermarkets being barred from selling chocolates and sweets near check-out tills – known as ‘guilt lane’ – to stop children asking their parents to treat them.

M&S stopped selling Percy Pig sweets in check-out areas about three years ago.

Oliver and other campaigners are also urging a ban on energy drinks for under-16s and to bring in a 9pm watershed for promoting sugary and or fatty products on TV from 2020.

National Obesity Forum chair Tam Fry last night said: "I’m thoroughly pleased at the prospect of cartoon characters being divorced from junk food.

"We need to associate these popular children’s characters with in-your-face good food."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We’ve always said that our 2016 plan was the start of the conversation, not the final word on obesity.

"We are in the process of working up an updated plan, and will be in a position to say more shortly."

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