World Obesity Foundation calls for EU to regulate junk food ads targeting children

The World Obesity Foundation (WOF) is calling for the EU to regulate adverts that target children on online video games, social media and other digital platforms, reports just-food.

The London-based organisation of more than 50 regional and national obesity bodies compiled a dossier of “powerful targeting techniques that track children's online behaviour – including their browsing history, location, preferences and 'likes' – being used by advertisers to persuade children to purchase foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt".

WOF was now proposing regulations for EU policy makers to adopt while also calling for greater cooperation across national boundaries to minimise cross-border marketing techniques, just-food wrote on 17 December.

Hannah Brinsden, head of policy at the WOF, said: "Of the 53 countries in Europe, only half have taken any steps to limit marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) to children, eight years after World Health Organization recommendations were published.

“Of these, few countries have regulated and even fewer have addressed digital marketing. Meanwhile, evidence shows that introducing restrictions would reduce purchase and intake of these HFSS foods, and thus contribute to reducing body mass index (BMI) and millions in cost savings.

"Children are particularly exposed to the effects of food and beverage marketing as they can be deliberately targeted at moments when they are at their most vulnerable, exploiting their emotions. It's time for governments to seize the moment and develop statutory regulations to safeguard children from the unrestricted power of junk food advertising."