Ruh Roh Mom! Characters Have Power Over Kids’ Food Choices

NBC 7 San Diego

Scooby Doo has something that moms and dads don't, according to a new Yale University study -- the power over kids' taste buds.

Overwhelmingly, children who participated in a Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity study insisted they preferred the taste of the snack with the character. 

"When kids had the graham crackers and fruit snacks, they actually thought they tasted better when there was a licensed character on the packaging" Christina Roberto, of Yale University, said. 

She put identical foods in front of a group of 4 to 6-year-olds and the only difference was how the snacks were packaged. 

One was plain. The other had a licensed cartoon character, like Dora The Explorer, Shrek of Scooby Doo, on it.

"Their cognitive development isn't at the place where they can understand the intent behind advertising and that they're being advertised to" Roberto said. 

She is now pushing the Federal Trade Commission to restrict the use of licensed characters on junk food.

"I think it's critical. If we can get the licensed characters off the packaged foods, it will really help level the playing field in supermarkets when parents go out to shop with their kids." 

But Scooby might be able to help in the produce aisle. The kids in the study also said that carrots tasted better when they had a cartoon character on the packaging.

The full results are now in Pediatrics, the official journal of The American Academy or Pediatrics. 

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