This is old news now (about one week old) but I MUST blog about it. A study by Dr. Thomas Robinson, the director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Packard Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics and of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine has found that children ages 3 to 5 tend to prefer the taste of food that comes in a McDonald’s wrapper over identical food which does not.
Dr. Robinson’s research team gave 63 children, ages 3 to 5, the following foods: chicken nuggets, a hamburger, french fries (all from McDonald’s) as well as baby carrots and milk (from the grocery store). Each child received two portions of each food. One portion was wrapped in a McDonald’s wrapper or bag, the other was in a plain wrapper. The children overwhelmingly preferred the food in the McDonald’s wrapper over the identical food in the plain wrapper.
Dr. Robinson says:
“Kids don’t just ask for food from McDonald’s, they actually believe that the chicken nugget they think is from McDonald’s tastes better than an identical, unbranded nugget.”
Other interesting (and frightening) findings of the study are the following facts about the children:
- One third of the children ate at McDonald’s more than once a week.
- More than three-quarters had McDonald’s toys at home
- They had an average of 2.4 televisions in their homes
- More than one-half the children had a TV in their rooms! (Wow! These kids are only 3 to 5 years-old!!!)
Discussing his findings, which seem to link TV-viewing with a preference for McDonald’s, Dr. Robinson said:
“We found that kids with more TVs in their homes and those who eat at McDonald’s more frequently were even more likely to prefer the food in the McDonald’s wrapper. This is a company that knows what they’re doing. Nobody else spends as much to advertise their fast-food products to children.”
This frightening placebo effect of food preference in children seems to me to be yet another argument in favor of placing some sort of limit on food marketing to kids. If you want to read a bit more about about recent efforts to put limits on food ads targeted to kids, please read my June 25th post Food Marketing to Kids.
So, in case anyone still had a doubt, kids as young as ages 3 to 5 can be successfully “branded” by large corporations spending billions on TV advertising targeted at young viewers.
OK. On a lighter note, I think I’d better stock up on McDonald’s wrappers for a proper presentation of my A-list brussels sprouts to my children. “Hey kids, did you know McDonald’s now serves brussels sprouts? Yum!!!!!”
The study: Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children’s Taste Preferences appearing in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medecine, Vol. 161 No. 8, August 2007
Thanks to morguefile.com and photographer spress for the “Good Food” photo.