Mickey's war on fat

Two years from now the "House of the Mouse" will stop running advertisements for junk food on its TV channels and websites.

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    The world famous Walt Disney Company has effectively declared war on some of its own advertisers.

    Two years from now the "House of the Mouse" will stop running advertisements for junk food on its TV channels and websites.  It's also reducing the amount of sodium in the millions of children’s meals sold at its theme parks.  

    The reason?  The US is facing an obesity epidemic - it's huge and that's not meant to be funny. 

    Nearly one-third of all children in the US are overweight or obese.

    Fat crisis

    In it 2006 report on the matter the Institute of Medicine said junk food marketing contributes to the problem. 

    Healthy eating is a pet cause for First Lady Michelle Obama who was on hand to endorse Disney's move at the "Newseum" [a museum devoted to journalism] in Washington DC.

    "This is a major American company, a global brand that is literally changing the way it does business so that our kids can lead healthier lives," she said.

    Six years ago Disney set limits on the amount of calories, fat and added sugar in food sold in the parks and for products sold with its characters on the packaging.

    Chief Executive Bob Iger says now 60 per cent of Disney visitors take the healthier option available - even on vacation. 

    "Results like this prove just how powerful our media platforms can be when it comes to driving healthier behaviour and we're determined to use these platforms even more effectively."

    Business risk

    But how risky is this for Disney's bottom line?

    Not so much according to media expert Frank Sesno, the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, at The George Washington University in DC.

    "Disney is not in the habit of giving money away," he told Al Jazeera. "Disney is not in the habit of saying to people 'oh don't buy the ticket' or 'don't buy the product'.  This is a major corporation that is in business to do business so they wouldn't be doing this if they didn't think that from a marketing perspective this was going to work to their advantage." 

    New York sugar drinks

    Disney's move comes less than a week after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to ban sugary drinks larger than half a litre in most restaurants, theatres, and vending carts throughout the city.

    Healthier eating started as a public health issue that was taken up by politicians, then the public and now the media. 

    As Walt Disney himself once said, "If you can dream it, you can do it."


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