Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Following up on yesterday's post about American's short life spans and problems with obesity, here's a study from the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine on the Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Taste Preferences.

The study was pretty simple. They took food from McDonald's (burgers, nuggets, and fries) and food from the market (carrots and milk) and divided each food sample into two parts; half in McDonald's wrappers and half in unmarked wrappers. They then gave the food samples to a bunch of little kids, aged 3-5 years old.

The kids, of course, found the food in the McDonald's wrappers to be tastier, even when it wasn't the McDonald's food. The burgers in the McWrap "tasted better" than the identical unbranded burgers. The carrot sticks in the McWrap "tasted better" than the identical unbranded carrot sticks. Etc.

What the researchers claim to have proved is the power of marketing on young children, and they've done a darn good job of it. Dr. Thomas Robinson, who led the study, says, "Kids don't just ask for food from McDonald's, they actually believe" it tastes better than the identical unbranded food item.
"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," Robinson said. "This is a company that knows what they're doing. Nobody else spends as much to advertise their fast-food products to children."
McDonald's has not denied the findings, and claims to be working on "healthier choices." McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker says, "McDonald's is only advertising Happy Meals with white meat McNuggets, fresh apple slices and low-fat milk, a right-sized meal of only 375 calories."

Riker went on to say that "The fact is, parents make the decisions for their children." Not to let the big McD off the hook completely, but he's absolutely right. If the kid sees an ad for a "right-sized" chicken and apples meal, but the adult who brings them to McDonald's is eating a super-sized Big Mac, then there's plenty of blame to be spread around.

Meanwhile, if you want your kids to eat healthier, try wrapping your own food in McD bags and setting a better example yourself.

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