Tots say food tastes better if it’s inside McDonald’s packaging
CHICAGO (AP) — Anything made by McDonald’s tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick the taste buds of young children. Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.
The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald’s foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test. ‘‘You see a McDonald’s label and kids start salivating,’’ said Diane Levin, a childhood development specialist who campaigns against advertising to kids. She had no role in the research. Levin said it was ‘‘the first study I know of that has shown so simply and clearly what’s going on with (marketing to) young children.’’
Study author Dr. Tom Robinson said the kids’ perception of taste was ‘‘physically altered by the branding.’’ The Stanford University researcher said it was remarkable how children so young were already so influenced by advertising.
The study involved 63 low income children ages 3 to 5 from Head Start centers in San Mateo County, Calif. Robinson believes the results would be similar for children from wealthier families.
The research, appearing in August’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was funded by Stanford and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study will likely stir more debate over the movement to restrict ads to kids. It comes less than a month after 11 major food and drink companies, including McDonald’s, announced new curbs on marketing to children under 12.
McDonald’s says the only Happy Meals it will promote to young children will contain fruit and have fewer calories and less fat.