The Walt Disney Company is taking a stand against childhood obesity—the first major media corporation to do so—by monitoring the advertisements on each of their media outlets. With a third of America’s children overweight, Disney plans to put a dent in America’s fat population and reduce the incidents of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and other serious health problems.
Disney has promised that 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 will have to meet the company’s nutrition criteria for limiting calories and reducing saturated fat, sodium and sugar.
Disney’s criteria was created by experts and reflects the government’s dietary guidelines. In an effort to help advertisements reach their criteria, Disney is working with food companies to create healthier versions of their original products.
Michelle Obama is a big supporter of Disney’s recent initiative. She hopes that the company’s step towards a healthier nation will be a model for other U.S. corporations.
“This new initiative is truly a game changer for the health of our children,” the first lady said in a statement. “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?’”
Obama’s own “Let’s Move!” campaign has been a great success, challenging parents to introduce their kids to an active lifestyle in order to fight the onset of childhood obesity.
Director of Nutrition Policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Margo Wootan, called out other children’s entertainment companies such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network to follow Disney’s suit and monitor their food advertisements. Wootan categorized Disney’s efforts as a landmark in media “because a major media company is taking responsibility for what food they advertise to children.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, food and beverage companies spend approximately $2 billion a year on advertising and production promotion targeted at youth. Disney’s decision to rule out unhealthy advertisements may negatively affect their revenues. Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, said this gives supporters an even greater reason to applaud Disney’s self-imposed restrictions.
“With Disney’s reach and credibility, the tight nutrition standards they have set for specially designated foods will touch millions of children,” said Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.