Executives from some of the country's biggest food companies have defended their products to a committee of MPs investigating rising obesity levels.

"I don't think there's any correlation between confectionery consumption and obesity," Andrew Cosslett, Cadbury Schweppes' managing director for confectionery in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said at the cross-party Select Health Committee yesterday [Thursday].

"All the evidence suggests that people eat our products extremely sensibly. The problem is that people are buying things that they think are low-fat, products that are masquerading as healthy with misleading labels," Crosslett was quoted by the Independent as saying.

It was suggested at the meeting that health warnings could be displayed on burger packaging or that staff at fastfood restaurants could advise obese customers not to buy extra-large meals, but this was dismissed by Julian Hilton-Johnson, vice president of the UK branch of fastfood giant McDonald's.

"I don't think it is for us to presume to tell our customers what they should be eating," he was quoted as saying.

Many of the executives were keen to blame unhealthy lifestyles for the obesity problem, rather than individual products. Hilton-Johnson said that on average customers ate at McDonald's only twice or three times per month, while Cosslett said that most people considered chocolate bars to be treats.

It was also suggested that McDonald's should encourage children to eat healthily by including a Happy Meal toy only when a child chose the fruit option instead of the fries option, reported the Financial Times.

"We will consider it," said Hilton-Johnson.

The Health Select Committee is to publish its recommendations next year.