WASHINGTON DC: After breakfast cereal giant Kellogg pledged to make some of its products healthier or stop marketing them to under-12s, a US congressman is putting pressure on other major food and beverage manufacturers to follow suit.

Republican Ed Markey has written to McDonald's, Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo urging them to take similar steps and only market foods that meet new nutritional criteria.

He is also told the firms that a hearing by his congressional panel later this week will look at food commercials and their impact on children, in addition to violent and tobacco-smoking images.

In the letter he said: "I am concerned that the prevalence of advertisements on children's television for junk food, fast food and other foods wholly lacking in nutritional value is one of the root causes of America's childhood obesity epidemic."

Markey has also suggested to the media watchdog, the Federal Communications Commission, that it should be prepared to intervene on food marketing to kids if self-regulation is not forthcoming.

He says: "There is no question that the commission has both the affirmative obligation and the statutory authority to examine whether placing limitations on certain food advertising to children would further the public interest."

The food companies have been asked to respond to Markey's letter by the end of next week.

Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff