Disney Bans Junk Food Ads on Its Children’s Programming

Bruce Tuten/CC BY 2.0

Disney has instituted a junk food ban on programming geared toward children. It will begin imposing the stricter regulations for food and beverages advertised on its Disney XD, during Saturday morning programming on Disney- owned ABC stations, Radio Disney, and online. Disney Channel and Disney Junior, which are not ad supported advertisers but have sponsorships, will follow the same guidelines for sponsors, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"This new initiative is truly a game changer for the health of our children," Michelle Obama said. "So, for years, people told us that no matter what we did to get our kids to eat well and exercise, we would never solve our childhood obesity crisis until companies changed the way that they sell food to our children. We all know the conventional wisdom about that .... Today, Disney has turned that conventional wisdom on its head."

Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network already have similar policies in place. Advertisers will need to meet guidelines set for serving size, calories, fat, and sugar. The ban won’t start until 2015 in order to honor current contract obligations and allow food manufacturers to reformulate products.

Disney Takes Action

Disney has also stopped licensing its characters to McDonald's Happy Meals and its new Mickey Check symbol will help parents and kids identify healthier food products at park restaurants, kiosks, and online.

According to their Web site:

The nutrition guideline criteria were developed with the help of experts and align to the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The criteria assess food items and meals based on the following:

Do they contribute to a nutritious diet?

-fruit, vegetables, whole grain, low fat dairy, or lean protein?

Do they encourage kid-appropriate portions?

-calorie criteria

Do they limit ‘nutrients to avoid’?

-sodium, sugar, saturated fat, trans fat

The new updated guidelines limit serving size, fat, calories, and sugar for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

Junk Food Leading Cause of Childhood Obesity

This is great news and another weapon in the war against childhood obesity in this country. Childhood obesity is no joke. According to Kids Health, the percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate—one out of three kids are now considered overweight or obese. That's serious stuff considering that overweight children and adolescents are more likely to have heart disease and type 2 diabetes down the road.

And junk food is a real culprit. One study released by the National Cancer Institute found that nearly 40 percent of calories consumed by children ages 2 to 18 were empty calories, the unhealthiest kind of calories, derived from junk food.

Today, 40 percent of calories eaten by kids are derived from soda, sugar-sweetened beverages, cake, cookies, donuts, ice cream, pizza, and whole milk (rather than skim). This according to the National Cancer Institute. Although I'm not sure I would consider whole milk junk food, all the other choices are quite disappointing. During this developmental part of life there’s even a larger premium on healthy food.

Junk foods are also the most energy-consuming foods. Whole foods sourced from responsible sources translate into less energy used in agriculture and manufacturing and obviously, better nutrition. And still more important, kids define their eating habits when they're young.

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Tags: Corporate Responsibility

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