Disney launches healthy foods policy

The Disney Co has announced a range of health initiatives that will see it permitting Mickey Mouse, Pluto and other Disney characters' images to appear in connection only with foods that meet limits for calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar.

The company said all Disney-endorsed foods and promotional tie-ins would meet the new criteria, based on US government dietary guidelines, by the end of 2008.

The California-based multinational business also pledged to improve the healthfulness of foods available at its entertainment parks and implement its healthy eating plans internationally in coming years. Indeed, some US Disney parks and resorts are already replacing soft drinks and french fries with low-fat milk, 100 per cent fruit juice or water along with side dishes like apple sauce or carrots. Surveys revealed 90 per cent of parents and kids stayed with the more nutritious option.

The policy shift comes as Disney's 10-year deal to promote its films with McDonald's is about to expire. "Disney will be providing healthier options for families that seek them, whether at our parks or through our broad array of licensed foods," President and Chief Executive Robert Iger said. "These are just first steps in an initiative that will evolve over time. But we understand the challenges faced by parents and recognize Disney can contribute to the solution."

Disney's new position will see it cut trans fats from meals at US amusement parks by 2007 and from licensed foods by 2008. Other criteria include:

  • Added sugar not to exceed 10 per cent of calories for main dishes and side dishes, and 25 per cent of calories for snacks.
  • Total fat not to exceed 30 per cent of calories for main and side dishes and 35 per cent for snacks.
  • Saturated fat not to exceed 10 per cent of calories for main dishes, side dishes and snacks.

"Disney is instilling some of the magic and lustre of its own brand into foodstuffs that have traditionally bored kids to death," said Oscar Powell, brand strategist at UK-based consultancy Erasmus Partners. "That can only be a good thing for kids, and it will do the Disney brand no harm at all. Children need guidance and encouragement when it comes to healthy foods, and Disney is playing its part. I think it sits fine with the brand's core — it's simply helping kids understand the magic of a banana ... rather than a cheeseburger. "

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