The president of Italian pasta company Barilla is under fire for saying he would never sanction an advert featuring a gay family.

“I would never make a spot with a homosexual family. Not out of a lack of respect but because I don’t see it like they do. (My idea of) family is a classic family where the woman has a fundamental role,” said Guido Barilla on Italian radio programme La Zanzara.

“We have a different concept with regard to the gay family. For us, the concept of the sacred family remains a fundamental value of the company”.

When the hosts mentioned that gay people also eat pasta, Mr Barilla replied: “That’s fine if they like our pasta and our communication, they can eat them. Otherwise they can eat another pasta. You can’t always please everyone”.

He added: “I respect everyone who does what they want to do without bothering others. I’m also in favor of gay marriage. But not adoption in gay families.

“As a father of multiple children, I believe it’s very hard to raise kids in a same-sex couple”.

Following the outspoken remarks, Labour MEP Michael Cashman has called for a boycott of the brand, which is readily available in UK stores.

Barilla, the world’s largest pasta producer, is facing criticism from LGBT campaigners and also from several politicians in Italy.

“Here we have another example of homophobia, Italian style,” said Alessandro Zan, an MP with the left-wing SEL party. “I’m boycotting Barilla and I invite other MPs…to do the same. I’ve already changed pasta brands. Barilla is terrible quality”.

The hashtag #boicottabarilla (boycottbarilla) has since been trending on Twitter.

Attempting to play-down his original remarks, Guido Barilla has now said: “With reference to statements made yesterday, I apologise if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they have hurt the sensibilities of some people. In the interview I simply wanted to highlight the central role of the woman in the family.”