Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why Disney's Junk Food Ad Ban Marks the Future of Food Reform - June 6th, 2012
The biggest news in the kid-and-food world yesterday was a joint announcement by the White House and the Walt Disney Company in which Disney promised to phase out the advertising of junk food on its child-directed television channels, web sites and radio stations.  The ban will include Saturday-morning cartoons airing on ABC stations owned by Disney.

In addition, the company introduced a new "Mickey Check" logo for food items meeting Disney's updated nutritional standards.  The logo will appear on Disney-licensed grocery products, recipes on the company's website and on kids' meals and fruit cards at Disney parks and resorts.

Disney will also continue its practice (instituted in 2006) of automatically including healthful beverages and sides, such as carrots and low-fat milk, in all kids' meals served in Disney's theme parks (unlike McDonald's recently "improved" Happy Meal where parents must opt-in for milk over soda), while promising to further reduce the sodium in its kids meals and to offer more balanced kids' breakfast options.

Other aspects of the company's "Magic of Healthy Living" initiative are laid out here.

So what do we think of all this?

In two years of reporting on toothless industry "self regulation" of children's food advertising, I've learned the devil is in the details.   As I've discussed on The Lunch Tray, under the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (the largest industry self-regulatory scheme), major companies are free to set their own loose standards for "better for you" foods, allowing all manner of junk to pass muster.

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