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In Partnership with First Lady Michelle Obama and Let’s Move!, Disney Announces Strict Nutritional Standards for All Future Advertising

Published: 6/29/12
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By Adam Brown

In June, First Lady Michelle Obama and Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger announced a bold new plan to ban commercials and advertisements for unhealthy food products targeted at kids and families. Once it goes into effect in 2015, full meals that total more than 600 calories and food products high in added sugars and sodium will no longer be allowed to advertise on Disney’s various television channels, radio stations, and online. Yes! Disney hopes that the two-year delay (due to existing advertising contracts) will encourage companies to spend the intervening time improving the nutritional value of their products – we certainly hope so too, though we can also imagine companies tweaking products to just squeeze in under the new standards.

This isn’t the first aggressive step by Disney to be on the winning side in the fight against childhood obesity – it recently introduced Mickey Check, which places a logo of the world’s most beloved mouse on nutritious foods and menu items sold online and in the stores and restaurants of Disney’s US parks and resorts. The company has also announced plans to reduce sodium content by 25% in the over 12 million children’s meals sold annually in its theme parks. Finally, Disney will air public service announcements intended to help children see exercise and healthy eating as fun, essential activities.

In our view, the ban itself will force a departure in how the Big Food industry typically behaves; it has consistently lobbied hard against any federal efforts to curb unhealthy food advertising to children. There are, of course, some questions about the efficacy of the ban, both in its ability to actually change children’s eating habits and to prevent unhealthy foods from slipping through its guidelines. Some also question whether the guidelines go far enough – as dietitian Susan Levin told the Tampa Bay Times, junk food cereals like Lucky Charms and Count Chocula actually meet Disney’s currently announced guidelines. Nevertheless, we see the move as an encouraging first step, and we’re hopeful that Disney’s actions will spur other media companies to follow suit. –AW/AB

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