Disney announces healthy food, nutrition initiative
June 05, 2012 | 03:59 PM
Flanked by First Lady Michelle Obama, Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Robert Iger today announced that Disney would introduce higher nutrition guidelines for meals at its resorts and for foods bearing its iconic characters such as Mickey Mouse and, perhaps most importantly, new standards for food advertising on programming targeting kids and families.
“When moms see Mickey on the box, they can say yes and feel good about it,” Iger said, as aides distributed packages of dried, sliced apples and pears called Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck fruit crisps to reporters at a news conference at the Newseum.
The first lady, whose “Let’s Move” campaign focuses on childhood obesity, was effusive in her praise.
“This new initiative is truly a game-changer for the health of our children,” the first lady said.
“This is a major American company, a global brand that is literally changing the way it does business so that our kids can lead healthier lives,” Obama said. “With this new initiative, Disney is doing what no major media company has ever done before in the United States. And what I hope every company will do going forward when it comes to the ads they show and the food they sell they’re asking themselves one simple question: Is this good for our kids?”
Obama also urged parents to patronize companies that participate in the healthy eating campaign.
“I hope that parents will take notice when companies like Disney do the right thing for our kids,” she said.
“Because as parents, it isn’t enough to just ask for change. It’s not enough just to make the right choices for our kids. We also need to support those companies who are listening to us, because if we do that as parents and consumers, if we make a statement not just with our voices but also with our feet and with our wallets, then we will keep seeing the changes that we hope for. We will keep seeing more choices available for our kids.“
The event also attracted Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, who held a news conference with Iger afterward.
At the news conference, Iger noted that Disney is involved in this effort not only as a media company but as a food company, because it licenses its characters and also serves food in its resorts.
Genachowski was in charge of developing a set of voluntary guidelines for children’s food advertising that the industry blocked, but today he said it is preferable for industry to act on its own, rather than be regulated.
Genachowski noted that Congress had directed the FTC and other agencies to develop the guidelines and then later told the agency to halt the effort. The Disney proposal, he said, is “consistent with the goals of the FTC.”
Margot Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who has been an advocate of guidelines for children’s advertising, also praised the Disney effort, although she described the food guidelines as “better foods” rather than “ideal” foods.
“I believe in the power of marketing,” Wootan said, noting that Disney is using its characters to promote healthy foods.
Too often, she said, junk foods are packaged in fun ways.
“How is broccoli supposed to compete with an imitation fruit snack shaped like a princess’s shoe?” she asked.
Wootan said she believes Disney will not advertise some sweetened foods and said she believes parents will be more comfortable if their children watch Disney rather than other children’s networks. But Wootan added that she hopes Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network will follow Disney’s model.