Disney to ban ads for junk food aimed at kids

Posted at 9:18 AM, Jun 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-06 09:18:39-04

(CNN) – Walt Disney Co. unveiled new rules for its children’s networks that could ban ads for junk food marketed to young viewers. CEO Robert Iger announced the new policy at an appearance with First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington Tuesday. The policy will apply to Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney, and Disney-owned online sites oriented to families, effective by 2015.

Based on guidelines released by Disney Tuesday, many popular kids meals, such as Happy Meals from McDonalds, or Fruit Loops breakfast cereal from Kellogg, would not be able to be advertised. These guidelines are based on nutritional information about products on the companies’ websites.

The policy will not apply to ads on adult-targeted Disney networks, such as the various ESPN sports networks or ABC’s prime-time programming, which are the major profit drivers at the media conglomerate.

Michelle Obama has been leading a national campaign for healthier diets. Her push includes new school lunch guidelines and a physical exercise program called “Let’s Move” aimed at reducing childhood obesity. While the Disney initiative is limited to ads aimed at children, the First Lady praised the move and said she hoped other media companies would follow suit. 

According to the White House, American children see an estimated $1.6 billion a year worth of food and beverage marketing, and many of those ads are for food that are high in calories and sugar, but low in nutrition.

Among the limits, each serving of food advertised on the networks can only have 1.1 grams or less of saturated fat, 2.5 grams or less of sugar and 600 milligrams or less of salt for breakfast or mini meal, 300 milligrams or less of salt for a side dish and 740 milligrams or less for an entire meal.

The policy applies to the Saturday morning cartoon shows carried on Disney-owned affiliates of ABC, which includes the biggest markets in the country such as New York and Los Angeles. But it does not apply to all family oriented programming from the company, such as ABC Family or some prime-time shows. Shares of Disney were little changed in Tuesday trading.