By Abra Pappa
The landscape of morning cartoons is about to look a lot different, as they will no longer be aligned with ad campaigns for sugary cereals, fast food, or candy. At least on stations owned by Disney. In an announcement made last week the Walt Disney Co will ban junk food advertising on its television channels, radio stations and websites by 2015.
A step in the right direction? Absolutely. Disney is the first company to choose to self-regulate where government standards have failed to exist.
One-third of our nation’s children are obese and the numbers keep rising. Many experts believe that media and marketing influence is contributing to the problem.
Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has been a long time advocate for restricting junk food marketing for children, commended Disney for taking these steps and called on other networks to follow suit.
“Disney’s announcement is welcome news to parents and health experts concerned about childhood obesity and nutrition,” Wootan said. “This puts Disney ahead of the pack of media outlets and should be a wake-up call to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network to do the same. As a nation, all companies should be working toward promoting only healthy food through all forms of child-directed media.”
By 2015 all advertising has to meet Disney’s criteria for “healthy.” Disney’s guidelines promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce the intake of sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. For example, under Disney’s guidelines, any cereal with 10 grams of sugar or more per serving is off the air. Capri Sun juice and Oscar Mayer Lunchables will also not be advertised because of their high sugar and sodium content, respectively.
“We’re proud of the impact we’ve had over the last six years,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company in a statement Tuesday. “We’ve taken steps across our company to support better choices for families, and now we’re taking the next important step forward by setting new food advertising standards for kids. The emotional connection kids have to our characters and stories gives us a unique opportunity to continue to inspire and encourage them to lead healthier lives.”
In a press conference last Tuesday, first lady Michele Obama called this initiative a “game changer.”
“Make no mistake about it – this is huge,” she said. “Just think about it. Just a few years ago if you had told me or any other mom or dad in America that our kids wouldn’t see a single ad for junk food while they watched their favorite cartoons on a major TV network, we wouldn’t have believed you because parents know better than anyone else just how effective and pervasive those advertisements have become.”
“Our kids see an estimated $1.6 billion a year worth of food and beverage marketing, and many of those ads are for foods that are high in calories and sugar but low in nutrition. So our kids are constantly bombarded with sophisticated messages designed to sell them foods that simply aren’t good for them.
“I am thrilled that Disney is stepping forward in such a big way to stand alongside America’s parents.” And we are too.