CANDICE CHOI and J.M. HIRSCH, Associated Press
The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday that it will become the first major media company to ban junk-food ads for its TV channels, radio stations and websites intended for children.
Ad guidelines won't go into effect until 2015 because of existing advertising agreements.
Disney said its guidelines are aligned with federal standards to promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce the intake of sodium, sugar and saturated fat.
Experts cautioned that the effectiveness of any ban will be in how junk food is defined by the company. Previous attempts to regulate marketing to children have been criticized as being too generous.
But Aviva Must, chair of the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine, said Disney could succeed where the government has made little progress.
"There seems to be limited taste for government regulation," said Must. "So I think a large company like Disney taking a stand ... is a good step."
Studies have long established a direct link between junk-food advertisements on television and childhood obesity, and a legitimate ban could have far-reaching public health effects, said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital.
"Elimination of junk-food advertisements will not make television viewing a physically healthy activity," he said. "But elimination of advertisements will substantially reduce the harm of television viewing in childhood."