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WHO urges crackdown on junk food ad’s targeting children on apps and social media

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By John Glenday, Reporter

November 7, 2016 | 2 min read

The World Health Organization has called for a crackdown on junk food adverts aimed at children which appear on apps, social media and video blogs.

Officials believe that junk food providers are sneaking under the radar by targeting their adverts at children so that adults are unaware of the volume of commercials their children are being exposed to online, prompting calls for government action to curtail such activity.

Speaking to BBC News Dr Joao Breda, WHO programme manager for nutrition, physical activity and obesity, said of the phenomenon: "It is going digital very strongly and we know that existing models of regulation have holes and gaps that don't cover the needs of our children.

"We think it's huge, but parents don't know - sometimes they don't realise their children are being exposed.

"You could argue that is it more dangerous [than traditional media like TV]."

Doctors feat that rising media consumption amongst the young is dovetailing with increased consumption of foods laced with fat, sugar and salt in a phenomenon powered by the practice of paying some video bloggers to promote unhealthy food.

Similar worries have been expressed about McDonald's cashing in on the success of Pokemon Go to lure children inside and even gather data on the age, location and preferences of individuals to more finely target their adverts.

The junk food crackdown is the latest bid by the World Health Organisation including a series of films designed to inform consumers of precisely what is on their plate.

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