The BBC has issued an apology after it lost personal details of hundreds of children.

The names, addresses, telephone numbers and dates of births of around 250 children that had applied to take part in Gastronauts – a new food programme aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds - were stored on a memory stick.

It is believed that the memory stick was stolen when thieves broke into a vehicle belonging to a member of staff at Objective Productions, the company behind the new show.

Richard Deverell, children's controller at the BBC, informed parents of the loss by letter and has set up a free telephone helpline for those with further concerns.

"I offer you my sincere apologies and my assurances that we are taking all action possible to mitigate the consequences of this regrettable incident," he said.

"There's absolutely no evidence this data has been misused and the measures we took were entirely precautionary."

See also: MoD admits to losing 658 laptops since 2004