Disney Kids Networks to Ban Junk Food Ads

Bob Iger Disney 2011
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The conglomerate's child-focused radio stations and websites will also launch strict standards for food ads, which CEO Bob Iger is expected to unveil with first lady Michelle Obama.

Disney on Tuesday will unveil plans to keep junk food ads off its child-focused TV networks, radio stations and web sites, The New York Times reported.

Under the new rules designed to help fight childhood obesity, food commercials must comply with strict nutritional standards, which also apply to Saturday morning cartoons shown on ABC stations owned by the conglomerate, it said.

That means that products such as Capri Sun drinks and Kraft Lunchables meals, both current Disney advertisers, would be blocked from Disney's kids-focused media properties, according to the paper. So would a range of candy, sugared cereal and fast food. Disney’s restrictions focus on any content targeted to children younger than 12, whether live-action programs or cartoons.

Disney chairman Bob Iger is expected to make the announcement about the new initiative in Washington with first lady Michelle Obama.

The ban on junk food ads is part of a broader Disney commitment that also will include the promise to reduce the amount of sodium in children's meals served at its theme parks by 25 percent, the Times said. Disney also will produce public-service announcements to promote exercise and healthy eating among children.

And the company will introduce "Mickey Check" in grocery stores -- Disney-licensed products that meet certain limits on calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar and can display a logo consisting of Mickey Mouse ears and a check mark on their packaging.

Disney acknowledged that the new initiative is likely lead to the loss of some advertising revenue, but it wouldn’t detail how much, the Times said. The conglomerate argued, though, that benefits would outweigh the downside.

Iger said that health food for kids has become "a very, very solid business" for Disney. "This is not altruistic," he said. "This is about smart business."

Since 2006, consumers have bought about 2 billion servings of Disney-licensed fruit and vegetables, according to the company.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai