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MADISON, Wis. – Some lawmakers are calling on WW, the company formally known as Weight Watchers, to pull a dieting app designed for children.

Sen.Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., wrote a letter to the CEO of WW.

Kurbo is a free nutrition and weight-loss app designed to help with the childhood obesity epidemic. It’s geared for kids as young as 8 and up to 17 years old. The app uses a “traffic-light” system. Green items are “go foods” meaning they are healthy and can be eaten freely. Fruits and vegetables are green foods. “Yellow foods” need to be consumed in moderation. Some examples of yellow foods are chicken, beans, rice and other lean proteins.  Kids are encouraged to “stop and think” before eating red foods. Red foods include sweets but also things like full-fat cheese and crackers.

Kids are also encouraged to log the foods they eat, and set weight and health goals. Online health coaching is also available for a fee. But these coaches are not medical professionals. 

In their letter, the senators warn, “Kurbo’s use of before-and-after photos as well as the use of BMI and weight loss results tells children they deserve to feel successful only if their BMI or weight drops, of if they look like the child Kurbo had featured, implying that their appearance and the number on the scale is more highly valued than their health or character.”

Kurbo has raised concerns from some eating disorder experts and pediatric specialists.

The senators cited information from 2016, where experts with the American Academy of Pediatrics encouraged parents to steer their children clear of dieting and avoid specific discussion of weight.

As of last year, WW already offered its weight-loss program, for free, to teens between 13 and 17 years old.

“Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any mental health  condition,” the senators wrote. “Unfortunately, adolescents who engage in dieting are five times more likely than their peers to develop an eating disorder, meaning that Kurbo’s consumers are at a particularly high risk.”

You can read the full letter from the senators by clicking on this link.

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