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Mickey Holds Health Banner High

Deborah Taylor Tate, Republican FCC Commissioner and partner with Chairman Kevin Martin on a task force on childhood obesity, marketing and the media, Monday praised Disney's announcement of new dietary guidelines for its brand.

Disney says that, over the next two years as its various licensing deals come up, it plans to use its "name and characters only on kid-focused products that meet specific guidelines, including limits on calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar."

"Today is a great day for American families," said Tate. "As an FCC Commissioner and parent, I am pleased that Disney is demonstrating its commitment to being a part of the solution to the epidemic of obesity in America, especially as it relates to our most precious resource - our children.

"I look forward to working with Disney and others as our recently announced task force examines the role of media in childhood obesity."

Disney chief Robert Iger is quoted in a release announcing the moves as calling them "just first steps in an initiative that will evolve over time."

When asked whether the initiative could extend to limiting ads for sweets and snack foods in its ABC Saturday morning kids block, Walt Disney company spokeswoman Zenia Mucha pointed to a current review of industry self-regulatory guidelines (by CARU, the Chidren's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus), saying that "advertising guidelines will evolve over time and we will monitor those development and make our decision at that point."

She pointed out that Disney has already been working healthier diets and lifestyles into the plots of ABC's Saturday morning shows and would do more of that in the future. She also cited the ESPN Play Your Way youth fitness initiative.

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras was pleased by the new dietary guidelines.

"I am encouraged by Disney's new policies to promote healthy food choices for kids," she told B&C.

"This is precisely the kind of industry response we hoped to see when we issued our report on Marketing, Self-Regulation and Childhood Obesity earlier this year.
"Disney and a few other leaders in the food and entertainment industry are gradually changing the nutritional landscape of foods marketed to children.
"I hope and expect that their example will prompt others to recognize that marketing healthy choices can be both good for kids and good for business."
So did Margo Wootan, Nutrition Policy Director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who called them "laudable and important steps" and called on other media companies to follow suit.
She also suggested that Disney "take the next step and reexamine the food advertising it accepts on ABC, Toon Disney and elsewhere. Nevertheless, the steps it is taking today put Mickey Mouse head, shoulders and ears above SpongeBob SquarePants."