Disney Bans Some Food Advertising to Kids

apples in store

The Walt Disney Company just announced their plans to introduce new standards for food advertising on programming targeting kids and families.

Under Disney’s new standards, all food and beverage products advertised, sponsored, or promoted on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney, and Disney-owned online destinations oriented to families with younger children will be required by 2015 to meet Disney’s nutrition guidelines …The new nutrition guidelines are aligned to federal standards, promote fruit and vegetable consumption and call for limiting calories and reducing saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.

In addition to new advertising standards, the overarching plan impacts a wide variety of Disney’s activities:

  • “Mickey Check” tool will be an icon that calls out nutritious food and menu items sold in stores, online, and at restaurants and food venues at its U.S. Parks and Resorts. By the end of 2012 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.
  • In 2006, Disney’ s kids’ meals served at its Parks and Resorts have included nutritious sides and beverages such as carrots and low-fat milk, unless parents opt out. Of the more than 12 million kids’ meals served last year at Disney Parks and Resorts in the U.S., parents stuck with the healthier options 6 out of 10 times. Now, Disney will enhance its breakthrough efforts by further reducing sodium in kids’ meals and introducing new well-balanced kids’ breakfast meals.
  • Disney Consumer Products, which controls Disney licensed fruits and vegetables in North America, now claims that 85% all U.S. licensed food meet the company’s nutrition guidelines. The explanation for the other 15%? These are “special occasion treats.” Additionally, Disney will further reduce sugar and sodium in all licensed foods. This is no small thing since Disney Consumer Products is responsible for more than two billion servings of licensed fruits and vegetables.

According to their press release, Disney’s 2006 nutrition policy stipulated that promotions aimed at children 12 years old and under would meet specific guidelines. Since then, Disney kid-targeted film promotional campaigns have featured only healthier food and beverage products. “Making healthy eating and physical activity fun is central to creating healthier generations to come,” said Dr. James O. Hill, who worked with Disney to develop its nutrition guidelines, and is executive director of the Anschutz Health & Wellness Center at the University of Colorado. “Disney is using ‘magic’ – fun and creativity – to encourage kids and families to make positive changes, and it is working.”

Disney should be praised for this move. Given its stature and impact on what our kids eat this should be a real game changer similar to the positive ripple effects of their 2006 nutritional efforts.  It raises some interesting questions like: Will it apply to kid-focused programming on media not included in the formal plan, like on ESPN or at the Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World and events like the Tinkerbell 1/2 marathon?

All that said, can Disney use some of that ‘magic’ to do truly reduce all the waste from their parks and resorts and implement water conservation policies?  Then I’d be truly happy.

Photo: The Walt Disney Company

Written by Jennifer Kaplan

Jennifer Kaplan writes about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for Insteading (and EatDrinkBetter.com before the two sites merged) and is the author of Greening Your Small Business. She is an Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone and was named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster, an MFA and an MBA – follow her on Twitter.

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