Kraft Foods, America's largest food company, is taking action worldwide to combat the growing problem of child obesity by ceasing to advertising its less healthy snacks to youngsters under the age of twelve.

The company, which makes brands such as Oreos cookies, Chips-Ahoy and Kool-Aid sodas, is to phase out ads on TV, radio and in print aimed at the 6-11 age group.

The policy change will affect products which generate around 10% of Kraft's annual $30 billion (€22bn, £16bn) revenue. Overall ad expenditure will not be cut, but will be redirected.

The restrictions will be introduced as contracts with media companies expire, but the company expects the change to be completed globally in 2006.

Says spokesman Mark Berlind: "We do recognize that people and parents are concerned about advertising to young children. We hope this will address that concern."

The move stops short of axing all promotions to children. Kraft will still use cartoon characters in products and packaging and on its websites. And snack foods will continue to be marketed to teenagers who, the company deems, are less at risk of becoming obese.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest welcomes Kraft's initiative but believes it does not go far enough.

She says the company must "look at packaging, web sites, contests, toy giveaways and other marketing which has a negative impact on children's eating habits."

Kraft, in line with other major food companies such as Pepsico and General Mills, is also to introduce labelling on its products, highlighting those which are most healthful.

Data sourced from Washington Post Online; additional information by WARC staff