Nutrition-wise blog

Marketing and Mickey — A change in food marketing to children

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. June 20, 2012

I remember learning that food companies spend billions of dollars in food marketing to children under that age of 4. So, it was an amusing moment when I got to experience it for the first time as a mother.

It was a juice drink so cleverly marketed that my son not only asked me to buy it at the grocery store but also insisted that I watch the commercial when it came on. I could see the wheels turning in my son's head: "See mom, it really is healthy for me — just look at those kids frolicking around as they drink it!"

Do you have a similar story? What was the food and the "evidence" that made it a must buy?

Change is coming in 2015. The Walt Disney Company will enact a new set of nutritional standards for its theme park meals and any foods marketed on Disney television channels, radio stations and websites. The standards are based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Federal Trade Commission's proposed guidelines for marketing to children. The guidelines  stress eating more nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and cutting back on saturated fats, sugar and sodium.

This is good news. Could it get even better? Will other large companies with a stake in children's entertainment follow suit?

You may be seeing fewer junk food ads, but you'll be seeing more Disney characters. Disney-licensed characters are already on fruit and vegetable packages. This will expand to a logo on the front of packages with Mickey Mouse and the slogan "Good For You — Fun Too!"

The chairman of Disney was quoted as saying: "This is not altruistic. This is smart business." How do you see it? Is Mickey promoting health? And are you buying? Please share your thoughts.

To our children's health,

Katherine

Jun. 20, 2012