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Children the target for unhealthy food

WHO calls for tighter controls on the marketing to children of foods high in saturated and trans fats, free sugars and salt, in order to fight childhood obesity and the possibility of them developing diabetes. Tightening restrictions on marketing is central to this fight, according to a new report from the WHO Regional Office for Europe: Marketing of foods high in fat, salt and sugar to children.

Unfortunately, marketing unhealthy food to children has been proven to be disastrously effective. While adults know when they are being targeted by advertising, children cannot distinguish, for example, between advertisements and cartoons. This makes them particularly receptive and vulnerable to messages that lead to unhealthy choices.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, says: “Millions of children across the European Region are subjected to unacceptable marketing practices. Policy simply must catch up and address the reality of an obese childhood in the 21st century. Children are surrounded by adverts urging them to consume foods high in fat, sugar and salt, even when they are in places where they should be protected, such as schools and sports facilities.”

The promotion of foods high in saturated and trans fats, free sugars and salt has been recognized for some time as a significant risk factor for childhood obesity and the development of diet-related noncommunicable diseases.

There is a strong link between TV viewing and obesity in children. Recent data suggest that children become obese not just because they watch TV, instead of being active, but also because they are exposed to advertising and other marketing tactics. Most products featured are high in fat, sugar or salt. The leading categories of advertised foods are soft drinks, sweetened breakfast cereals, biscuits, confectionery, snack foods, ready meals and fast-food outlets.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe web site offers further information on nutrition and obesity, including Marketing of foods high in fat, salt and sugar to children. For more info click here.

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