Cartoon Characters Boost Junk Food Consumption
Can cartoon characters make you fat?
In a new study, children's eating habits were linked to cartoon characters on food packaging. The study is provoking a lot of news coverage today on health news sites and blogs, even if the study itself only involved 40 kids. Health.com's Sarah Klein reports:
Fifty percent of children say that food from a package decorated with a cartoon celebrity such as Shrek tastes better than the same exact food from a plain package, according to a new study. And when given a choice, the vast majority of kids pick the food from the cartoon-adorned package as a snack, the study found. The use of TV and movie characters on food packaging is "designed to access certain feelings, memories, and associations," says Dr. Thomas Robinson, M.D., a professor of child health at the Stanford University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. "If you associate certain products with things that are otherwise considered fun, it's going to make those products seem more desirable."
The study's authors include Christina Roberto, a doctoral student working at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. and Kelly D. Brownell, the center's director. The study examined food choices made by 40 preschoolers ranging in ages from 4 to 6-year-old girls and boys.
It revives a popular debate in science, advertising and parenting circles.
Should the use of cartoon characters to sell junk food be banned, as the Center for Science in the Public Interest has long advocated? Should advertisers be free to market their products as they please? Why do parents purchase junk food? Is it sometimes because it is less expensive than healthier fare? Is cartoon character branding of junk food really to blame for a child's poor eating habits?
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