Tampa-based Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) and a number of organizations -- including the American Board of Obesity Medicine -- submitted formal letters to the leaders of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft on Wednesday. The letters ask that the companies remove fat-shaming apps the groups deem offensive.
The apps -- among them Fatify, Fatbooth and Fat You! -- allow users to upload photos of themselves and to manipulate how big the face gets. They're also approved for minors to download in the app store.
"Children are the primary users of these types of apps, and the apps are teaching children that the disease of obesity is a funny cosmetic issue, which we know is not true," OAC President and CEO Joe Nadglowski said in a release. "You would never see an app target other diseases such as cancer, anorexia or HIV; therefore, obesity should be treated with the same consideration."
In addition to removing the apps, the national organization with more than 50,000 members is calling for changes to the companies' review process, so that similar apps aren't allowed again.
According to the OAC, about 30 percent of girls with excess weight and 24 percent of boys with excess weight report being teased by peers at school.
"As chair of the OAC Weight Bias Committee, I feel these types of apps have no value in today's society," Melinda J. Watman said. "In fact, they only fuel the weight bias and stigma that individuals battling this disease face on a daily basis -- especially children. We know these companies will make the right decision to remove the apps and implement new guidelines that prevent approval of future submissions."
It's not the first time Apple has been criticized for allowing controversial apps:
The latest generation of smartphone apps can help people do practically anything, from teaching them chess to tuning their guitar. But the proliferation of apps that obsessively quantify eating and fitness -- Tap&Track, My Diet Diary, Fitbit Activity, and hundreds of others -- have radically transformed the way anorexia afflicts patients.