No longer will healthy-minded parents cringe at the sound of sugar-saturated drinks or sickly snack cakes being lauded in seductive ads for kids watching their favorite Disney shows. In a bold move, the Walt Disney Company is announcing that it will only advertise healthier foods to children on its TV channels, radio station and website. Disney is the first major media company to take such a stand.
Food and beverage companies spend about $2 billion a year on marketing aimed at children, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And the Center for Science in the Public Interest states that in 2005, nine out of 10 advertisements shown during Saturday morning children’s television programming were for unhealthy foods. Match that with the statistics — a third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese — and the connection is hard to ignore.
Robert Iger, Disney’s chairman, said he felt strongly that “companies in a position to help with solutions to childhood obesity should do just that,” but also noted, “This is not altruistic. This is about smart business.” Smart business or not, the plan is expected to have some impact.
By 2015, all food and beverage products that are advertised, promoted or sponsored on the Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney, Disney.com and Saturday morning programming for kids on ABC-owned stations (ABC is owned by Disney) will be required to meet the company's nutrition criteria for limiting calories and reducing saturated fat, sodium and sugar.
Many foods that are currently advertised, like prepackaged lunches, fruit drinks, candy and snack cakes, will be banished. The nutrition criteria were decided on in accordance with the government's dietary guidelines.
"Parents can be confident that foods associated with Disney characters or advertised on Disney platforms meet our new, healthier nutrition guidelines," Iger said.
First lady Michelle Obama, who will be at the announcement in Washington, D.C., said in a statement, "This new initiative is truly a game changer for the health of our children ... With this new initiative, Disney is doing what no major media company has ever done before in the U.S. — and what I hope every company will do going forward. When it comes to the ads they show and the food they sell, they are asking themselves one simple question: 'Is this good for our kids?'"
Disney’s guidelines will be available here.
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