New WHO/Europe report calls for urgent action to protect children from digital marketing of food

World Health Organization

For the first time, researchers and health experts have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the concerning situation in the WHO European Region of digital marketing to children of foods high in fats, salt and sugars. The findings are published in a new report from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, Tackling food marketing to children in a digital world: trans-disciplinary perspectives, which calls for immediate action by policy-makers to recognize and address the growing issue of marketing targeted to children via digital media.

“Our governments have given the prevention of childhood obesity the highest political priority. Nevertheless, we consistently find that children – our most vulnerable group – are exposed to countless numbers of hidden digital marketing techniques promoting foods high in fat, sugar and salt,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Parents might be unaware of or underestimate the harmful impact of digital marketing, but this report makes clear the effect of such marketing on our children. It is the responsibility of policy-makers to recognize the new threat presented by digital marketing of food to children and to act swiftly.”

In the absence of effective regulation of digital media in many countries, children are increasingly exposed to persuasive, individually tailored marketing techniques through, for example, social media sites and “advergames”. This trend persists, although stubbornly high rates of childhood obesity are found almost throughout the WHO European Region.

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