The Walt Disney Company has decided to go on a diet. The family entertainment juggernaut has announced plans to begin cutting out ads and sponsorship for unhealthy food and drinks on its TV channels, radio stations and websites.
Disney will require products to meet minimum nutritional standards by 2015. The move, which also applies to Saturday morning kids programming on ABC stations, was announced at a press conference with First Lady Michelle Obama in attendance.
The company claims to be the first major media company to introduce such standards for food advertising on children’s programming.
Under the new rules, products like Capri Sun drinks and Kraft Lunchables meals — both current Disney advertisers — along with a wide range of candy, sugared cereal and fast food, will no longer be considered acceptable advertising material. For example, cereals will be required to contain less than 10 grams of sugar per serving to be advertised on programs like “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”
It seems sugary products, in particular, are really under attack of late. Earlier this month, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg announced his proposal to ban sugary drinks 16 ounces and larger from the city’s restaurants, movie theaters, delis, and food carts.
Disney, with this move, undoubtedly hopes to maintain its it reputation as a brand name families can trust. The home of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy has its logo on everything from movies to children’s clothing to its famous theme parks.
Robert Iger, Disney’s chairman, said he believed “companies in a position to help with childhood obesity should do just that.” But he admitted “this is not altruistic. This is about business.”
Iger pointed out that Disney already has developed “a very, very solid business” in health food for children. According to the company, Disney has sold about two billion servings of Disney-licensed fruit and vegetable products.
As part of this new plan, Disney also introduced what it called “Mickey Check” in grocery store aisles: Disney-licensed products that meet criteria for limited calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar can display a logo — Mickey Mouse ears and a check mark — on their packaging. The logos will include the slogan, “Good For You — Fun Too!”
“The Mickey Check will appear on licensed foods products, on qualified recipes on Disney.com and Family.com, and on menus and select products at Disney’s Parks and Resorts,” by the end of the year, according to a White House news release.
Not everyone, however, was completely thrilled with the Mickey Check program. Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, quoted in The New York Times, had this response: “Here comes Disney with yet another symbol, and it’s too early to say whether this will simply add to the chaos and confusion or actually help steer parents and kids as they shop.”
Having said that, Brownell still called Disney’s initiative “extremely important,” and said the company’s nutritional guidelines “appear quite good.”
You can find Disney’s nutritional guidelines on the company’s website.
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