Recent news that Disney has put the kibosh on junk food advertisements on their website, TV and radio stations seems on par with other efforts aimed at improving children’s health, but will the move really make an impact on children’s eating behaviors?
According to Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., a University of Minnesota School of Public Health epidemiologist and principal investigator of Project EAT, the answer is yes.
“There’s a reason that snack foods and sugary cereals are on the shelf closest to a small child’s line of vision,” said Neumark-Sztainer. “It’s the same reason these foods are advertised during the day. Children – like adults – are influenced by advertising.”
Neumark-Sztainer believes that by regulating food advertising on shows targeting children, Disney is taking a role in educating children on making better food choices. Because sugary and high calorie options aren’t being promoted, Disney is making a move to expose children to one less promotion of unhealthy food.
With the new criteria, Disney will scrutinize the calorie count of any food advertised on its channels. Though this won’t eliminate all junk food from being advertised, it will ensure that the food promoted is within a healthy calorie range for young children.
“I think Disney’s self-regulation is a positive move,” said Neumark-Sztainer. “While there will be alternative media channels where kids are exposed to advertising of unhealthy food choices and the impact of the company’s move is difficult to quantify, the effort is still a positive step.”