A slew of the world's largest food companies have pledged to stop advertising junk food to children under the age of 12 throughout the EU by the end of next year as the industry bids to help alleviate childhood obesity.

Food manufacturers including Kraft Foods, Danone and General Mills have agreed to curb their marketing activities following pressure from EU health and consumer protection commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

Under the so-called EU Pledge, the 11 companies, which also include Mars, Nestlé and Unilever, have agreed not to advertise food and drink on the TV, in print and on the Internet to children under the age of 12.

Foods that "fulfill specific nutrition criteria" based on scientific evidence or national and international dietary guidelines will be exempt from the ban.

The companies, which account for around two-thirds of the expenditure on food and beverage marketing in the EU, have agreed not to promote products in primary schools, to publish their commitments online and commission independent monitoring of the advertising pledge.