Fruit-related terms and images on food packages and advertisements affect children’s perceptions of foods’ fruit content.
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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.
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.
Schools, day-care centres, after-school programmes and other community groups.
Children aged 4-7 years.
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.
Findings suggest that labels and advertisements for sham fruit foods mislead children with regard to the food's real fruit content.