Wednesday, June 06, 2012

First Lady Of The USA Michelle Obama Praises Disney Channel's Decision To Ban Junk-Food Advertising; Hopes Nickelodeon Will Follow Decision

From The Independent:
Minnie size me: Disney bans junk-food ads for kids – with a little help from Michelle

As a global media conglomerate that owes its entire existence to square-eyed children who spend their waking hours glued to a television set, the Walt Disney Company makes an unlikely advocate for the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

That is exactly where the organisation known in Hollywood as the "Mouse House" now finds itself, however, after announcing a pioneering ban on the promotion of junk food across its array of kids' TV shows, internet sites and radio programmes.

Executives from Disney held a news conference in Washington with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, yesterday morning to outline its plans to become the first major US broadcaster to eliminate from its airwaves advertisements for unhealthy meals, drinks and snacks aimed at children under the age of 12.

The rules stipulate that food products that are advertised on channels such as Disney XD or that sponsor shows on The Disney Channel must comply with nutritional guidelines that place limits on salt, sugar and fat levels, together with overall calories. They will be phased in across the US over the next three years, to comply with existing commercial contracts, and then "gradually rolled out" in other territories, including the UK, according to a spokesman. The firm is also to reduce by 25 per cent the amount of salt in children's meals served at its theme parks, carry a series of "public service" adverts that promote exercise and healthy food, and introduce a range of Disney-themed fruit and vegetable products to be sold in supermarkets.

Disney's move comes days after New York's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced a ban on large servings of soft drinks in the city. Healthy-eating campaigners hope that, together, the shifts indicate that America is finally coming to grips with what they call its "obesity epidemic" – a third of the nation's children are overweight and around 17 per cent are clinically obese.

Ms Obama, who has devoted much of her time as First Lady to campaigning for healthier eating, praised Disney for "doing what no major media company has ever done before in the US". She called its policy a "game-changer" and hopes it will be mirrored by rival media organisations such as Nickelodeon and Discovery Kids.

In recent months, Ms Obama's efforts to promote her signature cause, which has extended to creating a vegetable garden at the White House, have been noisily ridiculed by a small number of mostly right-wing critics. They believe that encouraging children to eat healthily and take more exercise represents an incursion by the Nanny State into the private lives of families.

But Disney's chairman, Robert Iger, told The New York Times that he believes the potential long-term benefits of the move outweigh whatever short-term commercial loss his firm might suffer by turning away advertisers or angering the First Lady's political opponents.

"Companies in a position to help with solutions to childhood obesity should do just that," he said. "This is not altruistic. This is about smart business."

'Health' snacks: What they really contain


It comes in a pouch, adorned with a picture of some fruit. But don't be fooled: the biggest ingredient (aside from water) is "high fructose corn syrup", a cheap replacement for sugar referred to as "the devil's candy" by critics.

Kraft Lunchables

The new Disney guidelines stipulate a maximum of 1.1g of saturated fat per 100 calories of food. The Lunchable Deep Dish Pizza – a sort of processed mini-meal – contains almost double that.

Frigo Cheese Heads

Cocooned in layers of plastic, this processed snack trumpets its status as "America's favourite string cheese". It also claims to be "all natural," but if you think that equals healthy, think again: each portion boasts 280mg of sodium, 80mg more than Disney's limit.

Froot Loops

This "sweetened multi-grain cereal" has an ingredient list that begins with sugar, moves swiftly through flour and fat, and ends in a cocktail of food colourings.
Also, from the World Internet TV on PC blog:

Disney Stop Sugar Rush With Junk Food Ad Ban

Disney are probably the last children’s based entertainment company that would be seen as ‘setting a good example’, but yesterday it was The Walt Disney Co. that revealed their plans to become the first ‘major media company’ to impose a ban on commercials for ‘junk food’, with the proposed movement extending to all of the company’s range of fully-owned TV channels, radio stations, and websites as a means of removing temptation of unhealthy eating from children’s programming.

In an announcement in New York City (USA), First Lady and keen anti-obesity campaigner Michelle Obama declared Disney’s plans to be a ‘game changer’ that rival networks (such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Networks) should look at and follow.

She said of the news: “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 favourite cartoons on a major TV network, we wouldn’t have believed you.”

Launched under Disney’s ‘Magic Healthy Living’ campaign, the company will ban any adverts on their networks that do not meet their ‘nutritional standards’ with main culprits such as fast food and candy not the only items on the red menu. Under criteria such as sugar, sodium, and calorie (maximum 600 ‘per meal’) rates, with fairly innocent items such as Capri Sun juice pouches and select cereals (with over 10g of sugar) amongst the items being targeted.

In addition, Disney will be working with the likes of Burger King, and Coca-Cola (and potentially McDonalds) in creating ‘healthy’ food adverts as the norm, while the company’s own line of theme parks (Walt Disney Parks & Resorts) in America (two sites) will see to it that 85% of all food produced and sold in the park is of new ‘Mickey Check’ nutritional standards (from an initial internal proposal from 2006, which added that only ‘special occasion’ foods such as cake would make up the remaining 15%).

However there is a key catch to the new rules – with Disney’s decision not to implement the changes until 2015 taking a lot of the feel of urgency away from the situation.

The company added that the changes will feature on their websites as well as commercial-powered networks Disney XD, ABC (children’s block), and Radio Disney, and that while the move (which will potentially see them block advertisers for their ‘menu’ as a whole even if they are showcasing a healthy product in their advert), may have a short-term hit on their income, but that it should be made up in the future when the companies adjust their food featured to match ‘approved standards’.

Tufts School of Medicine’s Aviva Must, the chairwoman for the ’Department of Public Health and Community Medicine’ added: “There seems to be limited taste for government regulation. So I think a large company like Disney taking a stand and putting in a policy with teeth is a good step.”

Another product earmarked was Oscar Mayer’s Lunchables (28% of recommended daily sodium), but Kraft (owners of the product) claimed that the ban was a good thin, adding that they are not frequent marketers towards children, as nutrition policy director noted that the most severe ‘junk foods’ will be gone from Disney airwaves for good, and adding: “Disney’s announcement really puts a lot of pressure on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and other media to do the same.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger added of the new ‘Mickey Check’ process: “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 strange turn of events, could Disney, a company with a long-standing reputation for squeezing as much money as possible out of its target market, end up becoming a surprising torchbearer for ‘positive lifestyle’ in the USA? Or will most of its audience just have ‘killjoy’ as a mark against the channel...
Also, from ScreenCrush:
Disney Banning Junk Food Ads From Its Kid Shows

The fight against childhood obesity is a big one and the problem has been getting bigger and bigger each year. So it's nice to see a company as big and as influential to children as Disney doing something about it.

According to the Los Angeles Times, The Walt Disney Co. stated that they will be the first major media company to ban sugary ads from its TV channels, radio stations and websites for kids. What that means is your child won’t be seeing ads for cereals and junk food while watching the Disney Channel or listening to Radio Disney.

Because of existing advertising agreements, the policy won’t go into effect until 2015. But it’s still a major step forward in helping to curb the growing obesity problem this country faces. A new study predicts that by the year 2030, half of American adults will be considered obese, and in the UK, the numbers will go from 15 million to 26 million.

Hopefully this helps kickstart other media companies into thinking about who they sell their advertising space to during children’s programming. While this is a major first step, other companies like Nickelodeon, etc. need to follow suit.

No word yet on if Disney plans on getting rid of junk food inside its parks (looking at you McDonald’s), but fingers crossed it’s a plan they’re at least considering.
Also, from the Associated Press via Lexington Herald Leader:
Disney's new diet for kids: No more junk food ads

The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday, June 5, 2012, its programming will no longer be sponsored by junk food, becoming the first major media company to ban such ads for its TV channels, radio stations and websites intended for children.

NEW YORK — There won't be any more candy, sugary cereal or fast food on TV with the morning cartoons.

The Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday became the first major media company to ban ads for junk food on its television channels, radio stations and websites, hoping to stop kids from eating badly by taking the temptation away.

First Lady Michelle Obama called it a "game changer" that is sure to send a message to the rest of the children's entertainment industry.

"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," said Obama, who heads a campaign to curb child obesity.

The food that doesn't meet Disney's nutritional standards goes beyond candy bars and fast-food meals. Capri Sun juice (too much sugar) and Oscar Mayer Lunchables (high sodium) won't be advertised. Any cereal with 10 grams or more of sugar per serving is also off the air. A full meal can't be more than 600 calories.

Disney's rules - which won't take effect until 2015 - follow a proposal by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to take supersized drinks over 16 ounces out of convenience stores, movie theaters and restaurants, removing choices to try to influence behavior.

Getting rid of junk food ads will make it easier to keep the family on a healthy diet, said Nadine Haskell, a mother of two sons, 8 and 11.

"If they see a commercial on TV, then the next time we go to the grocery store they'll see it and say they want to try it," said Haskell, of Columbus, Ohio.

Disney declined to say how much revenue it stands to lose from banning unhealthy food. CEO Bob Iger said there might be a short-term reduction in advertising revenue, but he hopes that advertisers will eventually adjust and create products that meet the standards.

The ban would apply to TV channels such as Disney XD, children's programming in the Saturday-morning block aired on Disney-owned ABC stations, Radio Disney and Disney-owned websites aimed at families with young children. The company's Disney Channel has sponsorships, but does not run ads.

Aviva Must, chairwoman of the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine, said Disney could succeed where the government has made little progress.

"There seems to be limited taste for government regulation," said Must, who has studied childhood obesity for decades. "So I think a large company like Disney taking a stand and putting in a policy with teeth is a good step."

Even though many fast-food chains and food companies are rolling out healthier options like apples and salads, Disney said it still could deny the companies' ads.

Leslie Goodman, Disney's senior vice president of corporate citizenship, said Disney will consider a company's broader offerings when deciding whether to approve ads.

"It's not just about reformulating a meal for a single advertising opportunity," Goodman said. The company will need to show that it offers a range of healthy options, she said.

Disney said there are ads now running on Disney channels that would not meet the new standards. Two Kraft products won't make the cut: Oscar Mayer Lunchables, some of which have 28 percent of the recommended daily sodium intake, and Capri Sun, which has just 60 calories per serving but has added sweeteners.

Disney declined to name other companies' offerings, but said most sugary cereals won't be allowed.

Kraft said it welcomed Disney's decision, noting that it advertises very few brands to children under age 12.

Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that while some snack foods of limited nutritional value may still be advertised, the worst of the junk foods will be eliminated under the new policy.

"Disney's announcement really puts a lot of pressure on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and other media to do the same," she added.

A spokesman for Nickelodeon declined to comment.

Disney launched internal nutrition guidelines in 2006, with the goal of making 85 percent of its consumer food and drink products healthy. The remaining 15 percent was reserved for special treats, such as cakes for birthday celebrations. The company also stopped using toys in kid's meals to advertise its movies.

Disney on Tuesday also introduced its "Mickey Check" seal of approval for nutritious foods sold in stores, online and at its parks and resorts.

"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," Iger said.

The Better Business Bureau and 16 major food companies, including Coca-Cola Co., Burger King Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Mars Inc. have also pledged to ensure by 2014 that ads aimed at children are devoted only to better-for-you foods.

McDonald's, which is part of the initiative, said in a statement Tuesday that it will continue a dialogue with Disney about its new guidelines.
Also, from Reuters:
Disney junk-food ad ban latest move to slim U.S. kids

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Media and entertainment giant Walt Disney Co's new steps to limit junk food advertising on TV shows geared toward children is the latest salvo in the nation's fight against childhood obesity. But it left critics questioning whether the moves were enough to cut the growing waistlines of U.S. youth.

The new initiative, announced on Tuesday in a high-profile event featuring first lady Michelle Obama, will end some junk-food advertising on Disney television, radio and online programs intended for children under the age of 12.

Disney is also launching its own "Mickey Check" label for food it deems to be nutritious to help promote certain healthier foods in grocery stores and other retailers.

The plan follows New York City's recent proposal to ban jumbo-sized sugary drinks. The growing campaign -- ranging from voluntary industry action to government and policy steps -- aim to curb consumption of high-calorie, low-nutrition foods that play a role in the nation's obesity epidemic.

The Disney announcement confirmed details sources gave Reuters on Monday and landed amid increasing pressure on the food and beverage industries to promote healthier products.

The new guidelines, which start in 2015, set limits on the number of calories and amount of fat and added sugar for main and side dishes and snacks. Kraft Foods Inc's Oscar Mayer Lunchables and Capri Sun products, for example, would not make the cut, Disney said.

But some health advocates criticized Disney's efforts, saying they would do little to shift children's eating habits and would not be implemented soon enough.

"Three more years is a really long time," said Josh Golin, Associate Director for Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

The move was welcomed by Obama and other health advocates for putting the might of the $41 billion company behind fighting obesity in children and teenagers.

Nearly one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, and research shows youth are increasingly being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases related to obesity that were once thought of as only adult conditions. Data has shown junk food ads as one major contributor to the problem.

Obama, who has championed healthier eating and exercise habits as part of her "Let's Move" initiative, and Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger both said they hoped the Disney effort would spur other food and beverage companies to do more.

Various industry groups representing food and beverage makers said their members already take steps to limit promotions to children under 12.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, echoing the sentiment of other industry groups, said its members welcome Disney's announcement and "enthusiastically support" Obama's initiative.

Last year, top U.S. food and drink makers including Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and Kellogg Co agreed to industry-created voluntary nutrition guidelines for products marketed toward children under the age of 12. But the food, beverage and restaurant industries as a whole have successfully fought most government oversight on food advertising to children.


A 2006 Institute of Medicine report said junk food marketing contributed to childhood obesity, and consumers and health advocates increasingly are calling on food, beverage and restaurant firms to limit marketing to children.

Fast-food restaurants, in particular, have been under fire for using free toys to promote its meals for children. Some, such as Jack in the Box, have stopped offering them. Industry leader McDonald's Corp still gives away toys but has reduced the french fry portion and added apple slices to its popular Happy Meals for kids.

Packaged food companies have been reformulating some products by reducing calories, sugar and sodium while adding fiber and whole grains. Some of those products have failed to find customers.

Earlier this year Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailers, announced with some fanfare that it would label certain foods such as eggs as "Great For You" and try to lower prices on healthier food options.

Disney, which owns the ABC-TV network and a host of cable channels, introduced voluntary guidelines in 2006 that prohibited licensing of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters for foods that do not meet minimum nutritional requirements.

That helped sell more than 2 billon servings of Disney-licensed fruits and vegetables since then, Iger said at the event, which featured a Mickey Mouse character making yogurt parfaits surrounded by buckets of lemons, oranges and apples.

Disney's new effort will not allow advertising during children's programming on its networks, including ABC and Disney XD and its child-focused websites, for foods that fail to meet minimum nutrition requirements.

Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said parents will still see some ads for sugar-filled cereals, canned pasta and other less healthy foods. Overall, however, it's a landmark step, she 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," said Wootan, whose organization has lobbied for better nutrition standards for food eaten by children.

Wootan said the announcement is a "game changer" because it is the first time "a major media company is admitting they have responsibility for how they talk to children. In the past, the media companies were pretty much just pointing the finger at food companies."

Time Warner Inc's Cartoon Network said it adopted its own guidelines in 2007 but did not offer any details. Viacom Inc's Nickelodeon had no immediate comment.

Iger, who spoke to reporters after the event flanked by top regulators from the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, said Disney's action could sidestep the need for political action.

"If everyone does their small part, together we can create huge change without having the government step in to directly regulate or legislate our efforts," he said.

Susan Levin, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a registered dietician, said Disney's voluntary effort would barely make a dent in children's obesity and that the government would have to do more to make any sweeping impact.

"I would really love to see a company take a huge step and say 'We're done advertising anything that's not a whole food -- a fruit, a vegetable, a bean or grain -- we're done advertising that to kids'," she said.
Also, from Just-Food:
US: Disney bans "junk food" advertising

The Walt Disney Company is to ban commercials for foods that fail to meet the group's nutritional standards.

Disney said yesterday (5 June) its new advertising code aligns it with federal standards that aim to tackle the obesity epidemic in the US by promoting healthy eating and reduce the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fat consumed in the country.

The new guidelines set limits on the calories, fat and added sugar contained in mains, sides and snacks. These guidelines will be applied to foods sold through retail and foodservice channels.

Foods that fail to meet Disney's standards will not feature on Disney television, radio and online programs intended for children under the age of 12.

Disney is launching its own "Mickey Check" label to help promote healthier foods. The company plans also to air public-service style announcements promoting healthy eating and exercise, the group revealed.

Its new advertising guidelines will come into effect in 2015, the firm said.

The move comes amid growing pressure for action to be taken to curb the growing obesity epidemic in the US and follows the decision by New York City to ban jumbo sugary drinks.

Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the move puts Disney "ahead of the pack" and called on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon to follow suit.

The CSPI also suggested food companies need to increase their commitment to reduce the advertising of unhealthy foods to children.

Sixteen food and drink companies have signed up to the voluntary Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a self-regulatory programme drawn up by the industry. Since 2003, this has resulted in only a "modest" decrease in the marketing of junk food to children, the CSPI claimed.

"As a nation, all companies should be working toward promoting only healthy food through all forms of child-directed media," Wootan said.