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Disney Will Cut Back Its Sales and Marketing of Sugary Junk, But Should The Corporate Giant Have Done More?

Posted Dec 18 2008 8:12pm

Sometimes corporate America takes a small, belated step to respond to the childhood obesity epidemic. This week, entertainment giant Disney took just such an incremental, but notable step, announcing that low-fat milk, juice, or water will replace soda in meals served at their amusement parks and resorts, beginning this month, according to Reuters.

What’s more, French fries will no longer be the default option for side dishes available at Disney venues, but will be replaced with such items as carrots and applesauce, the New York Times reports.French fries will still be available at no additional cost if a customer requests them, too.

The children’s entertainment juggernaut will also stop using their characters to market foods that don’t meet certain nutritional standards: namely, the added sugar in foods adorned with Disney characters can’t exceed 10% of calories for main dishes and 25% of calories for snacks.

Something is better than nothing, I suppose, but Disney could have—and should have—gone farther, in my view. 

For one thing, why not withhold Disney’s stamp of approval from foods with any added sugar? Why not put Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear exclusively on packaging of fresh fruits and vegetables instead?

And while it’s certainly good that low-fat milk and water will be the first choice for beverages at Disney parks and resorts, soda won’t be banished altogether—parents can get the stuff if they ask (let’s keep our fingers crossed that they won’t!)

We’ll have to see if the juice options they offer are laden with added sugar or not, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if they were. Disney will also continue to sell what they call “special occasion sweets” like seasonal candy and birthday cakes, according to their press release.

Finally, Disney’s new marketing guidelines don’t mention the junk food commercials that run on Disney’s television stations, which include ABC, Toon Disney, and others.  So it appears they’ll still use their considerable clout to push unhealthy junk on impressionable kids.

Then again, anything that results in even slightly less junk food being foisted on children is a good thing.  So while I don’t think Disney deserves rave reviews here, I will give them a mild round of applause for taking a first step to more responsible marketing practices.

- From Jennifer Moore, of the SUGAR SHOCK! Blog Team

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