Disney Announces Plans To Restrict Ads For Junk Food (NYSE: DIS)

Disney has announced plans to eliminate advertising for junk food products from its shows for children.  The foods will have to meet the company’s nutrition standards for its advertising on children’s shows to be accepted.  Because of existing advertising agreements, the guidelines won’t go into effect until 2015.

The Walt Disney Co. will become the first major media company to restrict junk food ads on its TV channels, radio stations and websites intended for children.  Kids watching Saturday morning shows for children on Disney’s ABC network will no longer see ads for sugary cereals and fast foods.

Disney’s new nutrition guidelines are aligned with federal standards to promote fruit and vegetable consumption and reduce the intake of sodium, sugar, and saturated fat.  Under Disney’s guidelines, a complete meal could have no more than 600 calories and a side dish no more than 200 calories.  While some snack foods of limited nutritional value will still be advertised under the new policy, advertising for the worst junk foods will be eliminated.

Leslie Goodman, Disney’s senior vice president of corporate citizenship, says that traditional fast-food chain kids’ meals may not meet the new advertising guidelines, even with healthy side orders, because Disney will be assessing the restaurant’s entire menu when deciding whether to approve ads.  The company will have to show it offers a broader menu of healthier options.

Goodman said, “It’s not just about reformulating a meal for a single advertising opportunity.”  Goodman also said that some currently running Disney channel ads would not meet the new standards.  She did not name specific companies.

First Lady Michelle Obama called the announcement a “game changer.”  She said, “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.”

Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, praised the announcement and expressed hopes that other companies would follow suit.  She said, “Disney’s announcement really puts a lot of pressure on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and other media to do the same.”



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