Disney to Fight Against Childhood Obesity by Banning Junk-Food Ads

Written by: Kristiina Yang

Iger and Obama pose with Mickey Mouse

Disney CEO Robert Iger and First Lady Michelle Obama present new initiative together at June 5 press conference.

In an effort to combat America’s escalating childhood obesity problem, the Walt Disney Company, together with First Lady Michelle Obama, announced on June 5 its plan to remove junk-food advertising from its kids’ programming by 2015.

This initiative, presented by Disney CEO Robert Iger at the Newseum in Washington, will require companies advertising food and drinks to meet a set of nutrition standards in accordance with the government’s dietary guidelines. By 2015, when the full ban is slated to be in place, such companies must either reformulate their products or they will be cut off from advertising on all of Disney’s programming.

Disney is a wide-reaching and influential media company, including amongst its many divisions, a leading film studio, the ABC broadcast network, and multiple cable channels. The ban on junk-food advertising will primarily apply to its programming for children, which accounts for millions of dollars of revenue for the company each year.

While this initiative may represent a loss of money for Disney, it is not expected to be a significant amount relative to the company’s total operations. This small cost is seen as a smart business move for the positive publicity that this initiative will afford the company.

When a food or drink product meets Disney’s nutrition standards, it will receive a Mickey Check, a symbol also newly introduced as a part of Tuesday’s announcement. Additionally, Disney plans to revamp its menu items and offer more fruit and vegetable options at its domestic theme parks by next year.

Mickey Check

Food and drink items will receive a Mickey Check when they meet Disney's nutrition standards.

Disney is being lauded for its acknowledgement of media’s heavy influence on children, particularly in junk-food advertising, as well as, its commitment to battling childhood obesity. Such was the draw for Michelle Obama’s involvement, who has made fighting childhood obesity a cornerstone of her time in office.

In her statement at the press conference, Obama praised Disney remarking, “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. With this new initiative Disney is doing what no major media company has done before in the United States and what I hope every company will do going forward.”

This initiative is the first time that a wide-scale media company is taking control of what food products are being advertised to children. Some believe that with this ban, Disney may completely change the landscape of food marketing toward children with other stations such as Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network anticipated to take notice and act accordingly.

Salt Addiction Develops in Infancy says New Study

The amount of salt one prefers in his or her food may depend on the types of food eaten in early infancy according to researchers in Philadelphia.

This affinity for foods high in sodium typically develops in the first six months of life when babies are fed starchy foods such as crackers or cereal. These foods are likely to form a lasting effect on the taste buds as they are often the greatest sources of sodium in a child’s diet so early on. Furthermore, researchers noted that babies fed only baby food and fruit during their first six months of life showed no preference for salted or unsalted foods.

As baby foods tend to be completely or mostly sodium free, infants are unable to develop a dependency on salt as a flavoring. The same children who were tested in their first six months were later tested between three and four years of age and those fed salt early on were found to show a preference for water with twice as much salt in it as those who were not. These children were also more likely to choose highly salty processed foods like hot dogs and chips as snacks.

What benefit does this knowledge potentially have for children in the future? As processed foods tend to be high in sodium, researchers hope this discovery will help tastes trend toward natural, whole foods, ultimately leading to a healthier diet. Diets high in sodium are also associated with high blood pressure and diabetes, and the elimination of foods with a high salt content may lead to a decline in these conditions, particularly the development of diabetes at a young age.

Some researchers, like John E. Hayes, Ph.D. of Pennsylvania, feel that the preference for salt may be inherent in some children, which would pose a challenge to the findings of this study. Whether the research proves true in the long term or not, to salt or not to salt a child’s food early on is ultimately up to the parents; however, they might want to take the potential lifetime benefits into consideration when making that decision.

Ramen Noodles Are Tasty But Not Nutritious

Top Ramen noodles taste great and are cheap, but can be unhealthy

If you have attended college on a shoestring budget you may be one of the thousands of students who choose a diet consisting of ramen style noodles that are quick to fix and great tasting, but lack nutritional value.

A recent study in Australia found that those who consumed mostly ramen style noodles put themselves in a dangerous health zone, opening the doors to diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  Typically fruits and vegetables are left out of the student diet because of the high cost, an issue that the Obama administration is addressing.

Ramen noodles are a basic mix of wheat, salt and flavored broth like beef, chicken or shrimp.  The carbohydrate content is very high, as is the sodium.  There is virtually no fiber, vitamins or minerals in the freeze-dried mix.  And because the noodles are typically fried, the saturated fats are also up on the scale.

This yakisoba style of noodles is very tasty, but must be consumed with caution.  There are fresh ramen noodles available at grocery stores along with frozen vegetables and real broth to add to the mix.  The cost may be slightly higher than a brand like Top Ramen Noodles, but the health value is much better.

Dogs Love Meat for Good Reason

The world is confusing in dog food land. Marketing magic rules the day, manufacturers tend to favor the bottom line over reliable pet health, and government regulation…actually, there isn’t much government regulation in the $15 billion dog food industry. This allows pretty much a free-for-all in terms of what ingredients manufacturers pack into their products. People tend to trust that the pet food industry has our pets’ best interests – and health – at heart, but this is often not the case at all. According to pet food consumer rights groups and informed veterinarians, the main culprit is corn.

Meat: It's a Dog's Life

“Complete and Balanced” does not necessarily mean complete and balanced. Dogs are essentially carnivores — descendents of wolves — and while they can and will eat vegetables (and an abundance of other fare they shouldn’t eat, as they don’t inherently “know” what is bad for them) the character of their teeth structure and the understanding of their heritage points to meat as their Number One dietary requirement. Therefore, meat is essential as the primary ingredient in dog food, and more often than not, it is corn, as in corn gluten meal, ground yellow corn, corn syrup, as well as other grains such as wheat.  Veterinarians note that the shiniest of coats, the lack of hot spots and itchy skin, and the absence of digestive tract ailments were indicative of dogs with high-meat-content diets. Diets rich in animal proteins do not cause kidney damage in healthy dogs and cats as once believed; they thrive on those animal proteins in every positive way.

One regulatory requirement of dog food (and cat food), is that the ingredients on the packaging must be listed in order of weight. If corn is listed first, you will know it is the most predominant component. When meat is listed first — chicken, lamb, or beef — then you know you have a winner.

Check those ingredient listings. Nutritional awareness is the best tactic for ensuring the health and vitality of our furry loved ones.