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The new policies call for Disney to use its name and characters only on kid-focused products that meet specific guidelines, including limits on calories, fat, saturated fat, and sugar. Disney also announced nutritionally-beneficial changes in the meals served to children at all Disney-operated restaurants in its Parks and Resorts and unveiled a company-wide plan to eliminate added trans fats from food served at its Parks by the end of 2007 and from its licensed and promotional products by the end of 2008.
“Disney will be providing healthier options for families that seek them, whether at our Parks or through our broad array of licensed foods,” said Disney President and CEO Robert Iger. “The Disney brand and characters are in a unique position to market food that kids will want and parents will feel good about giving them.”
The guidelines are based on The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and have been developed in cooperation with two top child health and wellness experts, Dr. James O. Hill, Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and Dr. Keith Thomas Ayoob, Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Specifically, the guidelines governing kid-focused licensed foods call for limits such as the following:
A cap on calories that results in appropriate kid-sized portions.
Total fat will not exceed 30 percent of calories for main and side dishes and 35 percent for snacks.
Saturated fat will not exceed 10 percent of calories for main dishes, side dishes and snacks.
Added sugar will not exceed 10 percent of calories for main dishes and side dishes and 25 percent of calories for snacks.
Disney will continue to license special-occasion sweets such as birthday cakes and seasonal candy as part of its product range but will limit the number of indulgence items in its licensed portfolio to 15 percent by 2010. In addition, most special-occasion sweets will be available in single-serving packets.
“By developing nutrition guidelines for children, Disney is demonstrating a long-term commitment to the health of kids,” said Dr. Hill. “The guidelines are comprehensive and consistent with The Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” that are issued by the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services.
“This is some of the best news I have heard in over twenty years of working with families and children as a pediatric nutritionist,” added Dr. Ayoob. “Disney is synonymous with fun and can play an important role in getting kids to consume a more balanced diet.”
Disney’s timetable for implementing its new policies is dictated by existing contractual arrangements, the majority of which will lapse in their current form within two years. Disney expects most of its licensed products and promotional tie-ins to meet the new guidelines by the end of 2008.
Disney Consumer Products has already begun to offer many licensed products which comply with the guidelines. They include breakfast items such as instant oatmeal featuring characters like “The Incredibles” and “Kim Possible,” and Disney Garden fresh produce such as kid-sized apples and bananas. Lunch and dinner foods such as Mickey-shaped organic ravioli and other pastas are also now available.
“Families are shopping together more often and we see an opportunity to give parents food choices they can approve of while at the same time satisfying their kids,” said Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products.
Beginning this month in U.S. Disney Parks and Resorts, kids’ meals are automatically being served with low-fat milk, 100-percent fruit juice or water along with side dishes like apple sauce or carrots in place of the traditional soft drinks and French fries. Parents will still be able to substitute French fries and soda at no additional cost. Initial tests involving 20,000 kids’ meals show that as many as 90 percent of parents and kids stayed with the more nutritious option.
“This is a terrific initiative because it makes it easier for parents, even while on vacation, to offer their children well balanced meals with kid appeal,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Added trans fats are in the process of being removed from all Disney food offerings. Food served at the U.S. Disney Parks and Resorts will be free of added trans fats by the end of 2007. Disney’s U.S. licensing and promotional groups are aiming to meet an end-2008 deadline.
“These are just first steps in an initiative that will evolve over time,” said Iger. “But we understand the challenges faced by parents and recognize Disney can contribute to the solution.”