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Disney Bans Junk Food Ads Towards Children

These days I wear multiple hats, but two of the most important ones are “mom” and “dietitian.” When I heard that Disney was taking big steps to cut all advertising of unhealthy products aimed at children under the age of 12 beginning in 2015, I couldn’t help but tip both of those hats to them.

Having struggled with weight as a child, I've often found myself worrying about the influence of junk food ads on my now 10-month old daughter as she gets older and has more exposure to television.

In a statement released Tuesday, June 5, 2012, Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger announced new nutrition standards for food advertised to children on its television channels, websites, and radio stations. The guidelines assess foods based on whether they contribute to a nutritious diet such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain, low fat dairy, and lean protein, as well as encourage appropriate portions for calorie control, and limit sodium, sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat.

Actively involved in the obesity epidemic, the First Lady Michelle Obama summed up my thoughts and the beliefs of many American parents by saying, "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. I'm thrilled that over the next couple of years, when our kids tune into their favorite shows on Disney channels, or they log onto the Disney website, they will no longer be bombarded with unhealthy messages during those commercial breaks. Instead, they will see ads for foods that we might actually want them to eat, ads that can reinforce healthy habits and teach kids very important lessons.”

In addition to their announcement about banning unhealthy food ads, Disney introduced the “Mickey Check” tool that will identify their licensed food products sold in stores, online, and at its parks and resorts that meet the new nutrition standards.

While I worry that three years is a long time to wait for these new standards to take place, I’m encouraged that through my positive diet and lifestyle example, coupled with a drastic decline in unhealthy food ads thanks to Disney, my daughter as well as other young children, will be more likely to ditch the junk food and make healthy, unbiased choices.  

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you think Disney has just raised the bar for other businesses like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon? Do you think this ban will have a positive impact on the obesity epidemic? Please share.