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Young children's taste preferences may be influenced by fast-food branding

Preschool children preferred the taste of foods and drinks in McDonalds packaging to the same foods and drinks in unbranded packaging, according to a report in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Food marketing to children is widespread. The food and beverage industries spend more than $10 billion per year to market to children in the United States, according to background information in the article. By age 2, children may already have beliefs about certain brands and 2- to -6-year-olds can recognize brands and associate them with products.

In a study by Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., M.P.H., Stanford University School of Medicine, California, and colleagues, preschoolers age 3 to 5 tasted five pairs of identical foods and beverages in basic McDonalds packaging and in matched but unbranded packaging. The foods and beverages were: one-quarter of a McDonalds hamburger, a Chicken McNugget, McDonalds french fries, about three ounces of 1 percent fat milk (or apple juice for one child who was not allowed to drink milk) and two baby carrots. Parents completed a questionnaire including their childs race/ethnicity, age, exposure to McDonalds food and toys and television viewing habits.

A total of 63 children completed the study and performed a total of 304 individual tasting comparisons. On average, children preferred the tastes of foods and drinks in the McDonalds packaging over the same foods in unmarked packaging (48.3 percent vs. 36.7 percent for hamburgers, 59 percent vs. 18 percent for chicken nuggets, 76.7 percent vs. 13.3 percent for french fries, 61.3 percent vs. 21 percent for milk or apple juice and 54.1 percent vs. 23 percent for carrots). A secondary analysis found that children preferred the tastes of foods and drinks that were thought to be from McDonalds for four out of five comparisons. Preschoolers with more television sets in their homes and children who ate M
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Contact: Krista Conger
650-725-5371
JAMA and Archives Journals
6-Aug-2007


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