Regulating What We Eat: Helpful or Harmful?

How many of these do you drink in a week? Photo by Flickr user Majiscup via CC.

On Tuesday the Walt Disney Company made an announcement at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.  First Lady Michelle Obama was on hand to offer supporting remarks. Piggybacking on their Magic of Healthy Living program, Disney is taking further steps to inspire Americans to make healthy food choices, from food choices at their parks and resorts…to their branded food products marketed in grocery stores…to their choices in advertising in their media when it targets children under age 12.

Disney plans to impose strict self-imposed nutrition standards on the foods being advertised during programming for children under age 12 on all of the Walt Disney Company’s television stations, which includes ABC, ABC Family, The Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, and ESPN‘s multiple networks. The plan is for this to go into effect in 2015.

Kids can look for the Mickey Check logo at the grocery store and pester their parents for healthy snacks now! Image: Disney.com

The company also plans to start the Mickey Check program, setting up an emblem-of-approval for kid-friendly Disney-marketed foods that signals the food item meets a set nutrition standard. This seems to be a means for kids to identify with Mickey Mouse and ask their parents to buy the Mickey Check products.

Read the Disney press release hereLearn more about Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living program at their website.

This news today got us GeekMoms discussing recent news about assorted entities regulating what we eat. Not just this Disney news, which we all seemed in agreement with, but also we shared accounts of schools regulating what is allowed in our kids lunchboxes, and the current controversy in New York City: Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal this past week to ban the sale of sodas greater than 16 ounces at certain vendors.

That latter topic got us pretty excited. Being the geeks that we are, we started to delve into the psychology and finances of advertising for and selling of soda (and other high-calorie beverages).

Much of the more recent news about the proposed soda ban centers on attempts by the beverage industry use legal methods to stop the law from proceeding. I found this very interesting as I recalled my days working at a concession stand at a collegiate basketball arena in the mid-1990s.

I managed one of the concession stands at Penn State’s Recreation Hall basketball arena in 1994 and 1995. There was a university employee who ultimately ran all basketball concessions, but for one of the stands I was in charge of inventory, money, and gathering volunteers from among the AFROTC student body. I remember the university employee telling me that the most money was made by selling sodas. At the time (1995), I learned that the $3.00 cup of soda I was selling only cost the university $0.05 for the cup and $0.02 for the soda inside the cup!

No wonder the National Restaurant Association and the American Beverage Association are exploring their legal options! And the Center for Consumer Freedom took out a full page ad in this past weekend’s New York Times. Mayor Bloomberg might be cutting into their profit margins!!!

Corporate consequences aside, we also discussed the possible ramifications of a precedent like this one — could we further legislate what gets fed to our kids to the point that obese children might be removed from homes if it’s regarded as abusive?

What do you think about this recent news about fighting America’s obesity epidemic?  Are we legislating too much?  Or do we need to regulate in an effort to keep our health care costs down?

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Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 14. She serves part time as a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.