The food industry and obesity

March 18, 2011

Another topic that came up during last week’s Destination Casa Blanca panel was the role of the food industry in obesity. This is, of course, a highly charged issue (though, somewhat less so at this panel since none of us were employed by industry and we all agreed that the food industry does have an important role. I pasted a clip below summarizing my comments. In it, I describe a recent study published by colleagues at Yale, which showed that when children see licensed character on a packaged food, they say that the food tastes better. Yes, you read this correctly…all else being equal, in a “taste test” between the exact same food in a similar packaging, but one of the packages simply has a picture of a fun character on it, kids say that the one with the character tastes better (and, of course, they are more likely to choose it). Other studies show that simply having a branding on a food (ie, a package with a McDonald’s logo on it versus the exact same food in essentially the exact same packaging, but without the logo) makes kids prefer that food. Upcoming studies will further clarify how we react to packaging and brandings, but for now this makes quite a compelling case for the importance of corporate responsibility – and possibly stringent regulation – when it comes to food marketing to young children.

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