Food companies are again facing criticism from consumer body Which? over the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

The company's latest report, dubbed Food Fables, published today (16 July), claims some major food companies are taking advantage of "lax regulations" and using "irresponsible approaches to negatively influence children's food choices".

The consumer body pointed to the use of social networking sites, text messaging competitions and viral promotions to "influence 21st century children".

"We're not against treats and we're not against marketing, but we are against irresponsible company practices and hollow company commitments," said Sue Davies, chief policy adviser, Which? "It's time all food companies started to fully play their part and focused their vast array of creative and persuasive marketing techniques on selling healthier foods to children instead of less healthy ones."

However, Julian Hunt, director of communications at industry body the Food and Drink Federation, criticised the Which? study, arguing it "lacks any real substance", is very "subjective" and paints a misleading picture of what is really happening.

In response to the report he said: "Which? also fails to acknowledge the fact that the UK now has some of the strictest advertising regulations in the world, within which food companies are clearly operating to both the spirit and the letter of the law. Our members are going even further than these rules - introducing voluntary measures that are radically changing the marketing landscape here in the UK.

"On top of these changes, we are making a real difference to the health of the nation through our efforts to improve product recipes, develop healthier options and introduce clearer nutrition labelling."