Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
When asked what foods a Burger King ad depicting a child’s meal included as part of a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, only 10 percent of children correctly identified apple slices–most of the rest said they thought the food was French fries. More from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, which completed the study:
In research published on March 31, 2014 in JAMA Pediatrics, Dartmouth researchers found that one-half to one-third of children did not identify milk when shown McDonald’s and Burger King children’s advertising images depicting that product. Sliced apples in Burger King’s ads were identified as apples by only 10 percent of young viewers; instead most reported they were french fries.
Other children admitted being confused by the depiction, as with one child who pointed to the product and said, “And I see some…are those apples slices?”
The researcher replied, “I can’t tell you…you just have to say what you think they are.”
“I think they’re french fries,” the child responded.
“Burger King’s depiction of apple slices as ‘Fresh Apple Fries’ was misleading to children in the target age range,” said principal investigator James Sargent, MD, co-director Cancer Control Research Program at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. “The advertisement would be deceptive by industry standards, yet their self-regulation bodies took no action to address the misleading depiction.”
In 2010 McDonald’s and Burger King began to advertise apples and milk in kids meals. Sargent and his colleagues studied fast food television ads aimed at children from July 2010 through June 2011. In this study researchers extracted “freeze frames” of Kids Meals shown in TV ads that appeared on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and other children’s cable networks. Of the four healthy food depictions studied, only McDonald’s presentation of apple slices was recognized as an apple product by a large majority of the target audience, regardless of age. Researchers found that the other three presentations represented poor communication.
This study follows an earlier investigation conducted by Sargent and his colleagues, which found that McDonald’s and Burger King children’s advertising emphasized giveaways like toys or box office movie tie-ins to develop children’s brand awareness for fast food chains, despite self-imposed guidelines that discourage the practice.
While the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission play important regulatory roles in food labeling and marketing, the Better Business Bureau operates a self-regulatory system for children’s advertising. Two different programs offer guidelines to keep children’s advertising focused on the food, not toys, and, more specifically, on foods with nutritional value.
“The fast food industry spends somewhere between $100 to 200 million dollars a year on advertising to children, ads that aim to develop brand awareness and preferences in children who can’t even read or write, much less think critically about what is being presented.” said Sargent.
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Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Fast food restaurant chains have slowed down televised advertisements, but they are ramping up efforts to market to younger customers by using social media outlets, according to a new study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. More from Time.com:
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The researchers studied 18 of the top fast food chains in the U.S. and documented the changes in the nutritional quality of the food they served, as well as their marketing campaigns to kids and teens on TV and online.
Since 2010, kids between the ages of 6 to 11 saw 10% fewer TV ads for fast foods, and more of these ads included healthier meals, such as fruit snacks and salads.
But the positive trend also hid some less encouraging news. While the youngest kids were seeing fewer TV ads, older kids and teens still saw about three to five fast food advertisements on television every day. Appeals to teens on social media also surged, and while children saw more advertisements for healthier fast food options, these made up only a quarter of the fast food ads viewed by these kids, and only 1% of kids’ meals at these chains met healthy nutritional standards.
The results highlight the challenge that families face in improving children’s diets, as such enticements to consume high calorie, high fat meals continue to surround them. A recent study published in the journal PLOS One reported, for example, that fast food ads targeting kids were more likely to include toys and giveaways, which are a nearly irresistible draw for younger kids. And research suggests that these types of marketing campaigns seed lasting emotional connections to brands, making children more likely to continue eating at fast food chains and take their own families there as adults.
Monday, October 7th, 2013
In theory, chicken nuggets should contain…chicken. But everyone who has ever eaten or fed their children the popular foods has probably wondered at some point whether that’s what they’re eating. Researchers at the University of Mississippi took a scientific look at samples from several fast-food restaurants, and found, alarmingly, that only 50 percent of the average nugget’s contents is actual muscle tissue, what most people would think of as “chicken meat.” More from Reuters:
The nuggets came from two national fast food chains in Jackson. The three researchers selected one nugget from each box, preserved, dissected and stained the nuggets, then looked at them under a microscope.
The first nugget was about half muscle, with the rest a mix of fat, blood vessels and nerves. Close inspection revealed cells that line the skin and internal organs of the bird, the authors write in the American Journal of Medicine.
The second nugget was only 40 percent muscle, and the remainder was fat, cartilage and pieces of bone.
“We all know white chicken meat to be one of the best sources of lean protein available and encourage our patients to eat it,” lead author Dr. Richard D. deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, said.
“What has happened is that some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it and still call it chicken,” deShazo told Reuters Health.
“It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar and fat that is a very unhealthy choice. Even worse, it tastes great and kids love it and it is marketed to them.”
The nuggets he examined would be okay to eat occasionally, but he worries that since they are cheap, convenient and taste good, kids eat them often. His own grandchildren “beg” for chicken nuggets all the time, and he compromises by making them at home by pan-frying chicken breasts with a small amount of oil, deShazo said.
Image: Chicken nuggets, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson is defending his company’s food quality, and its use of its clown mascot, Ronald McDonald. The Huffington Post reports on the interview Thompson gave to Bloomburg TV’s Betty Liu:
“We have tremendously high quality proteins,” he says. “It is all real food,” he continues. “We have always supported high quality food. We support farmers, fresh food.”
Liu brings up kids’ food at McDonald’s and Thompson responds, “We’ve added more fruits, more vegetables, we’ve changed our milks…we’ve done a lot of things.” He also reaffirms that the company will “continue to try to do more.”
Thompson gets defensive though, when it comes to marketing to children. People blame Ronald McDonald for peddling food to children, he claims, but argues that the blame is misguided. Ronald is merely a brand icon that is involved with the company’s charities, he explains. “When is the last time you saw Ronald eating food or marketing to your children? You haven’t seen Ronald do that,” he says.
The CEO gets more personal when he discusses his own children. “I bring my kids to McDonald’s now because the food is high-quality. It’s safe.”
Image: Drive-thru fast food, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Fast food, which is often cited as a major factor in the U.S. childhood obesity epidemic, is now being associated with asthma and eczema, two allergy-based illnesses. More on the study, which was published in the medical journal Thorax, from Yahoo! News:
The researchers found that, out of the 15 food types in the questionnaire, only fast food showed an association with asthma and eczema in both age groups regardless of gender and socio-economic status. Three or more servings a week was linked to a 39 percent increase in severe asthma among teens and a 27 percent increased risk among younger children.
“A consistent pattern for the adolescent group was found for the relationship between symptoms and fast foods,” the researchers wrote in the study. “As adolescents are generally known to be high consumers of fast food, these results that show a significant increased risk of developing each or all three conditions may be a genuine finding.”
Though both eczema and asthma can be triggered by food allergies—and typical fast-food meals are filled with common allergens like gluten, dairy, egg, and soy—Williams told Yahoo! Shine that allergies probably aren’t the main issue here.
“We did not look for gluten, although bread and pasta both have gluten (however gluten free pasta and bread are now widely available so when someone says yes to eating bread 3x per week it may well be that they ate gluten free as this practice is growing in some countries). So we cannot tease this out,” he wrote in an email. “There is no doubt that food allergy plays an important role in some people with severe asthma and eczema, but those people tend to recognize it and avoid those foods.”
“I doubt if our observation of an association between severe allergies and fast foods is mediated much by increased food allergens,” he added.
A 2011 study published in Nutrition Research and Practice suggested that additives in processed foods could also trigger an allergic reaction in some kids, but Williams and his team say that fat intake, not food allergies or additives, is probably the main culprit.
Image: French fries, via Shutterstock
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