Fast food and candy will soon become a thing of the past on the Disney Channel.
The Walt Disney Company said Tuesday that it will no longer air commercials for products that do not meet certain nutritional standards on television channels, radio stations and web sites that cater to children.
Because of previous agreements with advertisers, the new standards will go fully into effect by 2015, the company said. Disney's nutrition guidelines are drawn from federal standards and promote eating fruits and vegetables in place of sugary or fattening snacks.
Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger joined with First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington D.C. to make the announcement.
"This new initiative is truly a game changer for the health of our children," Michelle Obama said in a statement. "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 ever done before in the U.S. - and what I hope every company will do going forward."
It is certainly a dramatic break from less than a decade ago, when Disney and its animated characters routinely received tie-ins with McDonald's. At one point, the company even partnered with Kellogg on a cereal called Disney Chocolate Mud & Bugs.
In recent years, those kind of tie-ins have become increasingly rare. Indeed, it is not the first time that the Magic Kingdom has added its weight to the White House's efforts to combat childhood obesity.
In September 2010, Disney partnered with the first lady on her Let's Move! campaign, deploying Disney Channel stars like Nick Jonas and Brenda Song to talk up the benefits of healthy eating and exercise in a series of multi-media promotions. As part of that effort, the company made a $1 million donation to sponsor ten gardening and playground projects for underserved communities across the country.
Although the first lady has helped make healthy eating and obesity trendy topics thanks to her advocacy, not every like-minded initiative is a hit with the public. For instance, Disney's announcement comes as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is facing fierce opposition to his push to ban super-sized sodas from the city's eateries.
In addition to fast food and sweets, Capri Sun drinks and Kraft Lunchables are among the products that will no longer be advertised on the Disney Channel and Radio Disney, according to the New York Times.
A spokesperson for Kraft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Along with its new advertising standards, Disney introduced the “Mickey Check” tool, an icon that calls out nutritious food and menu items sold in stores, online, and at restaurants and food venues at its U.S. parks and resorts.
By the end of 2012 the “Mickey Check” will appear on licensed foods products, on qualified recipes on Disney.com and Family.com, and on menus and select products at Disney’s parks and resorts.
The company has been pushing carrots and low fat milk in the kids meals it serves at its resorts, but said it will be further reducing sodium in the meals and introduce balanced kids’ breakfast meals. It will take similar steps with the food it licenses.
“We’ve taken steps across our company to support better choices for families, and now we’re taking the next important step forward by setting new food advertising standards for kids," Iger said in a statement. "The emotional connection kids have to our characters and stories gives us a unique opportunity to continue to inspire and encourage them to lead healthier lives."