Should Ariel, Belle and other Disney characters be shilling Dig N’ Dips, Lollipops, and Candy Rolls to young children?
While the Walt Disney Company has won plaudits from health groups and parents for discouraging the use of its licensed characters to market junk food, Disney’s characters can be licensed to market candy to children as long as it’s Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter or any other “special occasion.”
The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) thinks that's wrong and is calling on Disney chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger to keep Tinkerbell, Mickey Mouse and Toy Story characters off candy and junk foods.
"Disney understands as a general principal that it should take nutrition into account when it licenses characters to food companies -- and for much of the year it does," said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. "Disney's otherwise laudable policy has a loophole that Cinderella could drive her carriage through. Twenty-five percent of candy sales occurs around four holidays, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter."
An encouraging step in the right direction is a licensing arrangement Disney has with Tim Burton's FrankenWeenie movie, says CSPI. Its ghoulish characters are promoting individually wrapped packets of Paramount Farms pistachios. The packs have just 20 calories and 20 milligrams of sodium.
The video gaming company PopCap has another great idea for Halloween, according to the group. Partnering with the American Dental Association, it is offering coupons for a free download of its wildly popular Plants v. Zombies game that parents can print out to give to trick-or-treaters. The “Stop Zombie Mouth” campaign comes with tips for healthy teeth.
Moderation in all things
"Halloween shouldn't be candy-free, but candy doesn’t have to be the only thing handed out at every house," Wootan said. "There are plenty of things to give to kids that don't promote obesity and tooth decay."
CSPI offers what it calls “Ghoulishly Great Ideas” for Halloween including temporary tattoos, individual packages of dried fruit, sugar-free gum and other trick-or-treating possibilities. It also provides tips for fun activities and healthier snacks for Halloween parties.