Disney Bans Snack Foods ““ What’s Next? Warning Labels On French Fries

In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek column I wrote a few years ago, I joked about the possibility of someday seeing warning labels on hamburgers, desserts and other foods that we eat. I was just trying to be funny while attempting to express a point that warning labels do very little to stop us from doing what we really want to do if we want to do it bad enough. The article was written during the time of tobacco taking a direct hit from warning labeling and the pros and cons of its success were being questioned. I never thought that someday my thoughts in an article, that was supposed to be a collection of nonsense, would ever become a possibility. But, these days nonsense often becomes law, so why should I not be surprised when Disney announces no more pop tarts on their channels.

It seems the attack is underway on snack foods and sugary drinks. The Walt Disney Company, who taught us that mice can talk, now have announced that they will be the first media company to ban junk food advertising for its TV channels, radio stations and websites intended for our children. Your kids, while still being able to watch their favorite mouse look after his dog Pluto, will not be seeing Tony the Tiger push his sugary flakes on Saturday mornings. Instead, Disney says they will be pushing fruits and vegetables during those early morning shows when kids are usually sitting before the one-eyed monster with a bowl of something, less the prize, watching one of Disney’s features. It sure will be strange seeing junior munch on a bowl of squash as Toy Story characters promote the importance of eating broccoli.

They are reporting that the Happy Meal may not even meet the standards to get a place on the Mouse’s TV channels. Disney’s guidelines require that a complete meal must be under 600 calories and a side dish could have no more than 200 calories. It’s being predicted that Mickey and Minnie may no longer be seen together in a ice cream shop and that Goofy may be pushing French fries in dark allies to Donald’s nephews. This new change is all about obesity rates and Disney is the first to attempt to do something for the younger crowd.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on the “Big Gulp” up in his city to cut down the size of folks in the Big Apple. He is putting a ban on sugary drinks bigger than 16 ounces, which don’t fit in your automobile’s cup holders anyway, to stop the over indulgences of big drinks that he says leads to your bathroom scales being unable to function. I grew up when an 8-ounce cold drink took care of your thirst and only cost a nickel. I also have to admit there weren’t a lot of us in the overly plump range either. But I don’t think it was the size of the drink that caused that. It was the amount of the exercise prior to and after the drink, as well as the lack of the nickels, that kept us a lot thinner.

There are several questions in all of this. Disney is cutting out the snack food advertising during the kid’s programming, but I just wonder how many kids have drivers licenses and do the grocery shopping? I saw a lot of things on TV as a child and would ask my mother for a box at the A&P, but she would do something that discouraged me from doing that very often. She would say, “No.” I guess the current generation only uses that method of discouragement for drugs and smoking, but with our health now being sent over the cliff by our eating habits, it seems we need a “Just Say No” campaign to sugary foods and drinks. It looks like if we don’t start doing it ourselves, the government and Big TV is going to do it for us. Tried it on smoking, why not food.

I grew up during a time of chores at home, summer farm work, and no vending machines in the educational facilities. Plus, it was required that P.E. be taken by everyone at school. And you know, we all lived through it. Disney’s programming was also Davy Crockett, Spin and Marty, and the Mickey Mouse Club, that after you watched them made you want to go outside and play. Maybe what we should do to help our kid’s diets is unplug the Disney channel, have a small cold drink and go outside for a game of backyard baseball. Our children just may discover that the best Adventure Land is right in their own backyard.

I would also suggest we find them a few chores to do as well. It can’t hurt and it sure would help a whole lot more than banning a few commercials.

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– Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com