The move will see an end to characters including Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh advertising or appearing on the packaging of junk food sold by firms such as McDonald's or Kellogg's.
The change in policy will mean that Disney will only use its "name and characters on kid-focused products that meet specific guidelines, including limits on calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar", the company said in a statement.
As part of the initiative, Disney is ending its 10-year £1bn deal with McDonald's to advertise on its Happy Meals. Kellogg's products such as Pop-Tarts and high-sugar cereals will no longer be tied in with Disney characters.
The ban comes months after Disney announced the end of its long-running partnership with McDonald's Happy Meals (Brand Republic, 9 May 2006). It denied that the deal was ended because of concerns over child obesity.
The move will also affect Disney's theme parks, which have fast-food restaurants on-site. They will eventually phase out fatty, sugary and salty items from their menus, such as burgers and fries.
However, Disney made it clear that it is not the fast food companies the move is aimed at, but some of their products. It will still allow characters to endorse products that meet health guidelines, which it has developed in co-operation with a panel of child health experts.
Robert Iger, Disney's president and CEO, said: "Disney will be providing healthier options for families that seek them, whether at our parks or through our broad array of licensed foods. The Disney brand and characters are in a unique position to market food that kids will want and parents will feel good about giving them."
However, the announcement did not mention the junk-food advertising carried on Disney's TV networks, such as the Disney Channel, Toon Disney and ABC Kids.
Last year, Steve Jobs, Disney shareholder and head of Pixar Animation, expressed his concerns about Disney's brand tie-ins with unhealthy food brands: "There is value, but there are also some concerns as our society becomes more conscious of some of the implications of fast food," he said at the time.
Disney expects most of its licensed products and promotional tie-ins to meet the new guidelines by the end of 2008.
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This article was first published on brandrepublic.com