Disney kicks junk food out of the magic kingdom

A Mickey Mouse character assists Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Culinary Dietary Specialist Gary Jones make healthy smoothies during an event introducing Disney's new 'Magic of Healthy Living' program at the Newseum June 5, 2012 in Washington, D.C. The entertainment giant will reject advertising for certain sugary, salty and fatty foods, and give Mickey Mouse the final say on what's healthy.

Bottled water with the new logo, Mickey Mouse ears and a check mark.

Kai Ryssdal: We begin, though, with food. And a corporate development that a cynic might say is nothing more than a sly marketing ploy, but healthy eating advocates might say is long overdue.

Grocery store shelves are packed with products telling you how healthy they are. Candy bars are gluten-free. Sugary drinks are 10 percent real fruit juice. Potato chips are all natural.

It's hard to know what believe. So enter a certain mouse with big round ears. From the Marketplace Health Desk at WHYY in Philadelphia, Gregory Warner reports.


Gregory Warner: The Walt Disney Company made two big announcements this morning. It's banning junk food ads on cartoons and other kid shows. That starts in 2015. And in just a few months, it will launch the Mickey Check.

Yeah, that Mickey. The mouse symbol will be slapped on foods in the grocery aisle that Disney approves as nutritious: Only so much sugar and salt and fat.

Obesity expert Vicky Rideout says it could provide a single standard that helps parents sort through the health claims on packages.

Vicky Rideout: You’ve got one product that says it's 'the better for you’ option -- it’s got a green check mark on it; another that says it meets your daily calcium requirements; and another that says it's vitamin-enhanced.

According to an Institute of Medicine panel that Rideout served on, this grocery aisle confusion is literally killing us, leading parents to choose bad foods and driving the obesity epidemic.

David Britt is the former CEO of Sesame Street. He says the Mickey label will sway kids' choices. It will also pay off for Disney.

David Britt: Every time you can get your logo in front of more parents and more kids, the better off you are.

Jennifer Harris is at the Rudd Center for food policy and obesity at Yale. She says Disney’s standards don’t go far enough. Breakfast cereals can be up to 33 percent sugar.

Jennifer Harris: Mickey would allow Honey Nut Cheerios, but he wouldn’t allow Cocoa Puffs cereal. He wouldn’t allow Fruity Pebbles, but he would allow Pebbles Boulder Chocolate Peanut Butter Variety.

She says Walmart has stricter standards to earn its “Great For You” label. But then again, what kid is gonna listen to Walmart?
 
In Philadelphia, I’m Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

Bottled water with the new logo, Mickey Mouse ears and a check mark.

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