/ Food & Drink, Health

The magical world of… junk food free ads

Disney characters

Can Disney help tackle childhood obesity? In the US they think it can. In a recent announcement, the company has said it will ban junk food ads on their TV, radio and online programmes.

Disney says the new rules, coming into effect in 2015, will set new nutrition standards in the US. And with around three in ten children overweight or obese, both here and in the US, something definitely needs to be done.

The US First Lady, Michelle Obama, an active campaigner on reducing childhood obesity, called the initiative a ‘game changer’.

Disney is the first big company to make a public decision to change the way things are currently done. And with around $1bn spent a year on these kind of ads, it’s potentially risky.

Is Disney’s move the Jiminy Cricket to success?

At Which? we’ve been asking for tighter regulations on junk food advertising when children are watching TV, so banning ads on media clearly aimed at kids is a positive step forward. But while regulations have tightened, and companies have made improvements, there are still a number of loopholes allowing children to be targeted.

In the UK the rules only apply to programmes that are of particular appeal to children under 16. There are rules for when ads for foods high in fat, sugar and salt can be shown and also an industry code that covers their content.

Of course we all know kids will watch things their older siblings do, and prime family viewing time is not covered by the rules they will still see ads.

Mickey mouse initiative?

How junk food is defined will also play a part in whether Disney’s new rules will make a difference. If they don’t get that bit right, then it will be hard to truly implement these changes.

So should we be applauding Disney’s announcement? Do you want to see the same approach established in the UK?


If Disney are so concerned about childhood obesity why are they waiting 3 years before banning ads? Why not from say October this year 2012?

I thought that myself, but I imagine it’s because they have existing advertising contracts in place they do not want to lose.

Unfortunately I don’t know how advertising contracts work, hence I gave them 4 months til Oct but I guess some contracts may be longer. But a 3 year deal ?

Seems like Disney are just it in for the headline and hoping to garner some good publicity from it that rather than actually stepping up to the plate and doing something constructive about it.

So like most things I believe it “Disney” when I see it.

Personally, I’m surprised that junk food advertising even exists on children’s TV at all. It makes me uncomfortable to think that an advert for a burger and chips can sit alongside Mickey Mouse!

I’m all for the banning of junk food adverts.