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Fruit-related terms and images on food packages and advertisements affect children’s perceptions of foods’ fruit content

  • Rebecca Heller (a1), Jennifer Martin-Biggers (a2), Amanda Berhaupt-Glickstein (a2), Virginia Quick (a3) and Carol Byrd-Bredbenner (a2)...
Abstract
Abstract Objective

To determine whether food label information and advertisements for foods containing no fruit cause children to have a false impression of the foods’ fruit content.

Design

In the food label condition, a trained researcher showed each child sixteen different food label photographs depicting front-of-food label packages that varied with regard to fruit content (i.e. real fruit v. sham fruit) and label elements. In the food advertisement condition, children viewed sixteen, 30 s television food advertisements with similar fruit content and label elements as in the food label condition. After viewing each food label and advertisement, children responded to the question ‘Did they use fruit to make this?’ with responses of yes, no or don’t know.

Setting

Schools, day-care centres, after-school programmes and other community groups.

Subjects

Children aged 4–7 years.

Results

In the food label condition, χ 2 analysis of within fruit content variation differences indicated children (n 58; mean age 4·2 years) were significantly more accurate in identifying real fruit foods as the label’s informational load increased and were least accurate when neither a fruit name nor an image was on the label. Children (n 49; mean age 5·4 years) in the food advertisement condition were more likely to identify real fruit foods when advertisements had fruit images compared with when no image was included, while fruit images in advertisements for sham fruit foods significantly reduced accuracy of responses.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that labels and advertisements for sham fruit foods mislead children with regard to the food’s real fruit content.

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Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: Email jmartin@aesop.rutgers.edu
References
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Public Health Nutrition
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