Food manufacturers have been accused of making misleading claims about the nutritional content of foods aimed at children that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

According to a report published by the British Heart Foundation, food industry majors deliberately cultivate "wholesome" images for brands that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

The charity has called on the UK government to introduce tougher regulations governing food advertising aimed at children.

The report, prepared by health campaign group the Food Commission, concluded that companies try to make foods seem healthier than they actually are.

Examples provided in the report included products made by Kellogg's and Nestlé

"It's clear that some food companies are preying on parents' concerns to actively market children's food that is high in sugar, salt and fat," British Heart Foundation chief executive Peter Hollins said.

"We are calling on the UK government to rigorously limit the marketing of unhealthy foods and make sure labels are clear and consistent."

However, food companies have refuted these criticisms.

Describing the report itself as "misleading", a spokesperson for Nestlé told just-food: "None of the marketing techniques listed in the British Heart Foundation report are in breach of current UK and European marketing and advertising rules. Nestlé puts great emphasis on ensuring that all our marketing adheres to all codes and regulations."

The spokesperson added that, in Nestlé's view, existing efforts to communicate nutritional information are sufficient.

"We agree there is a need for clear front-of-pack labelling, which is why all our products have guideline daily amount information on a per serving basis on the front of pack," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Kellogg's described the report's findings as "rubbish".

"Our on-pack claims are rigorous and all our marketing reflects the latest advertising codes. In December, the Advertising Standards Authority said food companies achieved a 99% compliance rate with the rules about responsible advertising to children," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also suggested that food manufacturers are singled out for undue criticism in the childhood obesity debate.

"We don't believe there is a silver bullet to childhood obesity - it's about having a balanced diet and active lifestyle at the same time.  That's why all our products have very clear guideline daily amounts on the front of pack. We believe this helps parents make their own mind up about what they want to feed their kids."