Disney To Curb Sugar, Salt in Parks, Products

Friday, June 8th, 2012
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

What, no more super-sized popcorns and unlimited soda refills at Magic Kingdom?

Maybe not, according to a statement just released by Disney. By 2015, the company will no longer advertise or promote a wide range of fast foods, sugared cereal, candy, drinks and other products considered unacceptable. As stated on their Web site,

Under Disney’s new standards, all food and beverage products advertised, sponsored, or promoted on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney, and Disney-owned online destinations oriented to families with younger children will be required by 2015 to meet Disney’s nutrition guidelines. The nutrition guidelines are aligned to federal standards, promote fruit and vegetable consumption and call for limiting calories and reducing saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.

This ban extends to Disney’s theme parks, as well, where an estimated 12 million children’s meals are served each year. Disney plans to reduce the amount of sodium in these meals by 25 percent, and to limit sugar in foods to no more than 2.5 grams per 100 calories.

The nutrition guidelines align to the federal dietary guidelines for Americans, and address the following criteria:

  • Do they contribute to a nutritious diet? i.e. fruit, vegetables, whole grain, low fat dairy, or lean protein?
  • Do they encourage kid-appropriate portions? i.e. calorie criteria
  • Do they limit ‘nutrients to avoid’? i.e. sodium, sugar, saturated fat, trans fat
  • Disney is the latest company to join in the anti-obesity campaign we first reported on in May when the IOM released a list of real world recommendations to combat the obesity epidemic. Included was the need to:

    reduce unhealthy food and beverage options while substantially increasing access to healthier food and beverages at competitive prices. The overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages must be reduced; calories substantially slashed in meals served to children while the number of affordable, healthier menu options is boosted significantly.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I traveled to a theme park recently, and I was struck by the legions of food counters available. It seemed as though we couldn’t walk a few hundred feet before encountering another food stand. Foods ranging from turkey legs to pizza to salted pretzels competed with rides and attractions for consumers’ attention. I just couldn’t help but wonder…wasn’t riding Aerosmith’s Rockn’ rollercoaster enough of a rush, without compounding it with a mega-slushy?

    This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a fair representation of healthier foods, like fruits, salads and low fat milks in the parks, but they were usually sold at a higher price than their unhealthier alternatives.

    But these unhealthy alternatives probably will not merit the “Mickey Check” tool, an icon that will call out nutritious food and menu items sold in stores, online, and at restaurants and food venues at its theme parks and resorts effective the end of this year.

    This isn’t the first time Disney has initiated nutritional guidelines; in 2006, Disney pioneered new, well-balanced kids’ meals served at its parks and resorts, which automatically included nutritious sides and beverages such as carrots and low-fat milk, unless parents opted out. Disney is now enhancing its efforts by further reducing sodium in kids’ meals and introducing new well-balanced kids’ breakfast meals.

    In addition to its nutritional efforts, Disney will introduce fun public service announcements throughout its parks inspiring and encouraging kids and families to live healthier lifestyles through better eating habits and fun activities.

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