(Reuters) - Walt Disney Co will stop accepting some junk-food advertising on its television, radio and online programs intended for children and launch its own "Mickey Check" label for food it deems to be nutritious.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger and first lady Michelle Obama announced the moves on Tuesday in Washington, confirming details sources gave Reuters on Monday.
The move by Disney, which owns the ABC-TV network and a host of cable channels, follows New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal last week to ban sales of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces (about half a liter) in most restaurants, theaters, delis and vending carts throughout the city to curb obesity.
Nearly one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, and a 2006 Institute of Medicine report said junk-food marketing contributed to childhood obesity.
The media and entertainment conglomerate introduced voluntary guidelines in 2006 that prohibited licensing of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters for foods that do not meet minimum nutritional requirements.
"We're taking the next important step forward by setting new food advertising standards for kids," Iger said in a statement.
"The emotional connection kids have to our characters and stories gives us a unique opportunity to continue to inspire and encourage them to lead healthier lives," he said.
Disney plans to cut junk-food advertising during children's programming on its networks, including ABC and Disney XD and its child-focused websites, for foods that fail to meet minimum nutrition requirements, the sources said.
The new guidelines, which take effect in 2015, set limits on the number of calories and amount of fat and added sugar for main and side dishes and snacks.
"Disney's announcement is welcome news to parents and health experts concerned about childhood obesity and nutrition," said Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"This puts Disney ahead of the pack of media outlets and should be a wake-up call to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network to do the same," said Wootan, whose organization has lobbied for better nutrition standards for food eaten by children.
Last year, top U.S. food and drink makers including Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and Kellogg Co agreed to voluntary nutrition criteria for products marketed toward children under the age of 12.
(Reporting By Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)