Britain's new healthy eating guru - Homer Simpson

LONDON Mon Oct 5, 2009 12:13pm EDT

Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, signs a poster at the unveiling of the new ''The Simpsons'' U.S. postage stamps in Los Angeles May 7, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, signs a poster at the unveiling of the new ''The Simpsons'' U.S. postage stamps in Los Angeles May 7, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Phil McCarten

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LONDON (Reuters) - Forget all the pizza and doughnuts -- the British government wants fans of "The Simpsons" to ditch junk food and eat more healthily.

The Department of Health is spending 640,000 pounds ($1 million) to sponsor episodes of the long-running U.S. cartoon series broadcast on Channel 4, as part of its Change4Life campaign.

Before the start of the sponsored shows, cartoon characters pretending to be the members of the dysfunctional animated family are shown sitting on a sofa tucking into ice cream and chips which then morph into more healthy alternatives.

The government hopes that viewers will realize they should follow that behavior, and not the beer-swilling, doughnut-guzzling diet of Homer Simpson and his family.

Public Health minister Gillian Merron said the aim was to produce new and innovative ways to reach the target audience..

"The Simpsons are a much-loved, close-knit family facing some of the everyday challenges that modern day families go through," she said in a statement.

"Whilst they certainly make some questionable choices about how they go about things, they provide a popular and engaging way to get the message to real-life families about simple ways of improving their diet and activity for a healthier lifestyle."

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)

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