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WHO: European children targeted by junk food ads, need tougher regulation

The World Health Organization called on European lawmakers for better regulation of advertising to children, especially with food. Two-thirds of overweight children stay that way in early adulthood.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday children in Europe were bombarded with hidden marketing tactics that promoted unhealthy foods.

With digital media ever on the rise, the European branch of WHO called on European policymakers to work towards better regulation to protect children from junk food advertisements in networking sites, games and other social media.

WHO said with the little regulation on digital marketing currently in place, children are exposed to specific advertisements that parents may not see and can be influential. Children that engage in emotional and entertaining experiences are encouraged to share them with friends and it's "a dubious cocktail when used to promote unhealthy foods," said WHO Europe chronic disease and health promotion expert Gauden Galea.

"Our governments have given the prevention of childhood obesity the highest political priority, (yet) 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 Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO's European regional director.

An estimated 25 percent of European children are overweight, and two-thirds of children overweight before puberty stay overweight when they reach adulthood, according to the report. Overweight children are more likely to develop chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer at a younger age.

kbd/kl (Reuters)

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