LOS ANGELES: The Mouse House is bowing to public concern at the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and has pledged to slice the amount of fat and sugar in its branded foods within two years.

The Walt Disney Company will also increase healthy choices at its theme parks across the world. Kids' meals will automatically include apple sauce and low fat milk instead of fries and sugary sodas.

Says the entertainment giant's ceo Robert Iger: "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."

The move has been welcomed by Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest: "As long as this is a first step and not the last step, this is really an important change."

Disney's efforts are in line with other major food businesses such as Kraft and restaurant chains McDonald's and Wendy's which have made varying efforts to comply with federal dietary guidelines.

The Institute of Medicine has found that one-third of US children are either obese or at risk of becoming so, while American companies are spending around $15 billion (€8.03bn; £11.9bn) annually marketing and advertising to youngsters under twelve.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff