The US Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Trade Commission have jointly issued a report calling on the food, advertising and entertainment industries to voluntarily limit advertisements for junk food aimed at children.

The two agencies suggested a variety of measures that it deemed appropriate but said that these should be adopted on a voluntary basis and not be governed by legislation, The Washington Post reported.

US childhood and adolescent obesity rates have doubled and tripled respectively in the past 25-years, the report noted. It said that companies should respond to this growing problem by promoting sensible diets and foods with health benefits. Licensing of popular children’s TV and movie characters should promote nutritious and low calorie foods, the Departments said.

However, these recommendations are a more watered down version of the proposal issued to Congress by the Institute of Medicine, which said that companies should be penalised if they fail to promote more healthy diets in the next two years.

The report, which has been welcomed by the food industry and advertisers, echoes a number of steps that have already been taken by food groups under pressure from consumers.

Kraft announced last year that it would stop advertising unhealthy foods in mediums aimed at the under 12s. Kraft, PepsiCo and a host of other companies have taken well-publicised steps to reduce the fat content of various products. Meanwhile, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, the self-regulating body for the food and advertising industries, has undertaken a review that looks at the possibility of implementing stricter regulations concerning new medias and the kinds of foods that can be marketed to kids

“We are pleased that the report does not call for further government regulations” Wally Snyder, president of the American Advertising Federation said in a statement.