We can all be relieved. Just when Pom Wonderful gets called out on their bullshit health claims, Disney has swooped in with a solution! Phew.
Disney announced a new health initiative yesterday. By 2015, it will only allow advertisements of food or beverage which meet their health standards. And guess what: they have a logo they'll put on all the food they approve. How helpful!
There are several things I don't like about this.
Alright I admit, I hate Disney's shows and movies, so maybe I'm being overly cynical. Let me try to be objective. Ok... I came up with two pros.
1. At least Disney is attempting to present a solution. We hear so much about childhood obesity. All the attention is great for giving parents of skinny kids a reason to look down on those with heavier kids, but rarely are useful tips provided. On the other hand, the solution for all weight issues isn't a profitable, sexy one. It's simply: eat better, eat less, exercise more. For Disney, the solution will be: Eat more Disney food. And exercise during commercials.
2. Disney is somewhat transparent with this initiative, admitting that gaining parents' trust will only help their bottom line. Yet Disney is the mother of all children's brainwashing marketing. Whatever earnings Disney loses by dropping junk food commercials, they will surely gain back in product placement. And with the Disney approved logo, advertising has jumped right out of the TV and landed on grocery shelves and household cabinets. Just think what sort of opportunities await within the schools! (Think: boxtops on steroids!)
Conclusion: Even objectively, I still don't buy it.
The Disney-Approved Logo
A chicken nugget shaped like Mickey's head is still a chicken nugget. Eaten occasionally, they won't kill you. I'm the last to judge. My kids have eaten dinosaur, finger, and nugget shapes. But if you are like me and trying to combat childhood obesity, you need an arsenal of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. I doubt Disney can get rich promoting such boring foods; unless they charge a pretty penny for placement of the Disney sticker throughout the produce section. Hopefully, parents won't put much value on this logo, because it will only drive up the cost we pay (for the exact same thing with a F-ing Mickey Mouse head on it!).
The Disney Standard
What exactly is the Disney standard?
Disney developed the new nutrition standards with the assistance of two child health and wellness experts: James O. Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and Keith T. Ayoob, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
Source: "Promoting Nutrition, Disney to Restrict Junk-Food Ads," New York Times, June 5, 2012.
You can read the five-page Disney Nutrition Guideline Criteria for yourself. There is no food list yet but selection will be made from 17 Categories ranging from "Shaped Prepared Nuggets and Meatballs" and "Water or Water-Based Drinks."
Within each category, there are six criteria that need to be met: serving size, calories, saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and "added trans fat." I have no idea if "added trans fat" differs from "trans fat." (For example, you rest easy knowing that water or water-based drinks are limited to 0 fat grams and 20 calories. Do we really need nutrition guidelines for water!?!)
You can already imagine the top foods: Disney chicken nuggests, crystal light, and baked potato chips, perhaps shaped the Mickey? This is not the solution. A slower lifestyle with less TV and more time to cook would be a good starting point. I know because I struggle with these challenges myself. Time and exhaustion inhibit me from making healthy choices. Uncertainty, the problem Disney is proposing to solve by telling me what to eat, does not.
Disney wants us to believe they can make healthy living magical (their words, not mine). Let me tell you, there is nothing magical about living a healthy lifestyle. It's quite the opposite, requiring restraint, discipline, and a lot of mundane planning. I don't have it down yet, it will be an ongoing challenge probably as long as my kids are in the house. But I do think it's a safe bet that Disney isn't going to be a whole lot of help.