The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new report, “Marketing of foods high in fat, salt and sugar to children,” that calls the marketing of “unhealthy” foods to children “disastrously effective,” alleging the food industry is driving rising obesity rates in children by using “cheap new marketing channels, such as social media and smart phone apps” to promote fat-, salt- and sugar-laden foods.

“Millions of children across the European Region are subjected to unacceptable marketing practices,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe. “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.”

According to a WHO news release, although all 53 member states in the European Region have signed on to restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, most rely on general advertising regulations that fail to specifically address high-fat, -salt or -sugar products, and only six countries (Denmark, France, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden) have fully implemented more comprehensive regulatory approaches to marketing food and drinks to children. Health ministers will reportedly address national policy adjustments during the WHO conference scheduled for July 4-5, 2013, in Vienna, Austria. See WHO/Europe News Release, June 18, 2013.