The United Nations Children’s Fund urged a blackout or at least limits on publicity of what it called unhealthy foods directed at children.
The ban on advertising should extend to all media, including the Internet, the agency said. It said children lack the critical senses to evaluation publicity.
The recommendations are contained in a report released Tuesday in San José. The report covers research done in Costa Rica, Argentine and México. The U.N. agency says that unhealthy food causes children to be overweight.
Unhealthy foods were defined as those that contain sugar, salt and fats.
The U.N. agency worked with the Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América y Panamá. Four schools were visited in each country and interviews were done with executives of food marketing firms, school officials, parents and others.
What the research showed was predictable. There are many advertising pitches on all media directed to children. There are a number of methods, including the use of sports figures and fantasy figures.
The study also came out against advertising directed to parents.
Costa Rica has had a rule since 2012 that vendors inside schools cannot offer what the U.N. agency sees as unhealthy foods. But some did, according to the study.
The report also called for more studies.
The report stopped short of connecting the advertising and the foods sold with obesity. It assumed that was the case. It noted that in Costa Rica children between 6 and 11 had 29.1 percent fat in their bodies, according to an unrelated survey. The report also urged food producers to adopt their own rules about advertising and children.
The various ministries of education were urged to keep advertising out of the schools and restrict the type of food that is available for children.
The report also urged the public at large to discuss the topic and campaign for the benefit of children.
The survey showed a lot of promotion exists on the social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and various computer applications.