ALARMING numbers of overweight children in Ireland are revealed in a new international report which warns it is "becoming the norm".
The health body has warned that being overweight as a child is now so common that "it risks becoming the norm" in Europe.
Among 53 countries, the prevalence of overweight 11-year-olds in Ireland was 30pc, outranked only by Greece (33pc) and Portugal (32pc).
The lowest ranked countries were the Netherlands (13pc) and Switzerland (11pc).
Across Europe as a whole, up to 27pc of 13-year-olds and 33pc of 11-year-olds are overweight. WHO regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said: "Our perception of what is normal has shifted: being overweight is now more common than unusual. We must not let another generation grow up with obesity as the new norm.
"Physical inactivity – coupled with a culture that promotes cheap, convenient foods high in fats, salt and sugars – is deadly."
The report said that in 23 out of 36 countries, more than 30pc of boys and girls aged 15 years and over are not getting enough physical activity.
Joao Breda, programme manager for nutrition, physical activity and obesity at the regional office, said: "We need to create environments where physical activity is encouraged and the healthy food choice is the default choice, regardless of social group.
"Physical activity and healthy food choices should be taken very seriously in all environments – schools, hospitals, cities, towns and workplaces.
"As well as the food industry, the urban planning sector can make a difference."
The report said that some countries have managed to contain the epidemic; France and some Scandinavian countries at least keep it at a stable level.
"These countries have implemented policies through a whole-of-government approach and intersectoral initiatives in line with Health 2020, the WHO policy framework for health.
"The palette of actions includes the promotion of vegetable and fruit consumption in school, along with school lunch initiatives, taxes on foods to reduce intake, tighter controls of advertising, sound systems for surveillance and monitoring, and action to promote physical activity, especially among children."
WHO recommended that national governments promote proper food labelling, a table of nutrients in food and regulated marketing of food products.