Have you ever bought or tried something new, just because of the way it looked, or the nice box that it came in? On your birthday, which present do you pick to open first? The one that looks big and colorful and exciting or the one that is wrapped in old tissue paper? The way that something is packaged and wrapped often advertises what is inside. But can attractive, exciting packaging convince you to try something that might not be very exciting, but is, perhaps, something that is good for you? In this human behavior science fair project you will investigate whether exciting packaging can convince children to eat healthier foods. Objective
The goal of this human behavior science fair project is to investigate whether exciting packaging can convince children to eat healthier foods. Credits
Michelle Maranowski, PhD, Science Buddies This project is based on the following California State Science Fair project: Beecher, A. (2008). Could a Cute Package Make Kids Eat More Healthy Food? California State Science Fair 2008. Introduction
Have you every walked down the cereal aisle in the grocery store while helping with the grocery shopping? Perhaps you’ve noticed that many of the cereals aimed at children have colorful and exciting boxes or packaging. But what is packaging and what is the function of packaging? Packaging is a product’s container, label, and graphic design. Its purpose is to protect its contents from damage, to provide information to the consumer, and to add appeal to the product. A product’s packaging also acts as the product’s “salesman” The packaging promotes the product, it attracts the consumer’s attention, and it encourages impulse buying.
Many of the products that are targeted for children, like candy and treats, are brightly colored and have innovative packaging, because that is what attracts children. In 2006, major food and beverage marketers spent over 1 billion dollars promoting their products to kids under the age of 17 years. Included in this amount is the cost of fancy packaging. Recently, diet, health, and nutrition have been featured heavily in the media. According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion adults and 22 million children (under the age of 5 years) worldwide are overweight.
Many food and beverage companies have received negative feedback that colorful packaging and the use of cartoon characters to advertise nutritionally poor foods leads to poor eating, and that they should stop using these techniques to sell to children. But what would happen if the tables were turned? What would happen if colorful packaging contained healthy food, like carrots? Would children be attracted to the packaging and eat the carrots? In this human behavior science fair project, you will investigate if colorful packaging can convince 1st graders to eat carrots. Have fun doing this project, and don’t forget to eat your carrots! Terms and Concepts
What is the purpose of packaging?
Do you like to buy things in colorful packaging? Look through your pantry and investigate if packaging plays a factor in how your family shops for food. Look through your pantry and refrigerator. Does healthy food come packaged in exciting and colorful packaging? Experimental Procedure
Preparing the Experiment
Since you will be working with human subjects, you need to get advance permission from the children’s parents or guardians (and teachers if you are performing the test while they are in school) to make sure that it is alright for the children to participate in the science fair project. There are special considerations when designing an experiment involving human subjects. Intel ISEF-affiliated (International Science and Engineering) fairs often require an Informed Consent Form for every participant who is questioned. Consult the rules and regulations of the science fair that you are entering, prior to performing experiments or surveys. Please refer to the following Science Buddies document for additional important requirements for studies involving human subjects: Scientific Review Committee (SRC).
Write a clear description of your science fair project, what you are studying, and what you hope to learn. Include how the child will be tested and that you will be using carrots in your study. Include a paragraph where you get a parent’s or guardian’s, and/or teacher’s signature. Print out as many copies as you need for each child you will be surveying. Pass them out to the children or to the teachers of the children to give to the parents. You must have permission for each child in order to be able to use them as a test subject. Get permission from your school and the 1st graders’ school to perform this human behavior science fair project before lunch in the 1st-grade classrooms.
Decorate the colored paper bags with stickers and markers beforehand. Do not use any words. Try to make the decorations appeal to both 1st-grade boys and 1st-grade girls. Decorate the bags in approximately the same way, using the same number of stickers and craft items on each. Wash your hands and put on a pair of disposable gloves.
Wash the carrots and dry them completely with paper towels. If you are preparing the carrots the night or day before you do the experiment, put the carrots in the storage container and put the container in the refrigerator. An hour before you go into the 1st-grade classroom, put on your disposable gloves again and put five carrots in each decorated bag and five carrots in each plain brown paper bag. The five carrots should be about the same size. Fold the open end of each bag over. In your lab notebook, record how many carrots you put in the decorated paper bags, and how many carrots you put in the plain brown paper bags. The classroom of 1st graders that gets the plain brown paper bags will be the control group in this human behavior science fair project.
The purpose of the control group is to minimize unintended influences and variations (such as kids that dislike carrots). Having a control in your human behavior science fair project leads to more trustworthy data. Decide between yourself and your volunteer, who will take the decorated paper bags and who will take the plain brown paper bags. Then decide who will go into which classroom. Performing the Experiment
You and your volunteer should enter and address each group of 1st graders at the same time (if you are performing this at two different schools, you will not need a volunteer, and it’s ok if you go on two different days). Practice what you are going to say beforehand, and be sure you stick to the same
wording. Both you and your volunteer should address your group of 1st graders and let them know that you are doing a behavior project. Let them know that there is a snack in the bag and that they can choose to eat the snack or to not eat the snack. Do not mention that they are carrots. They also don’t have to eat the whole snack, but if they don’t finish the snack, they should put the uneaten portion back into the bag. You should also state that since this is a science project, that they should be quiet, not talk to their neighbors, and not share their snack.
You and your volunteer should distribute the bags to the students, but don’t let them open the bags up right away. Once the bags have been distributed to the students, go and stand quietly at the front of the classroom. Tell the students to open their bags, and start the timer. Give the children 7 minutes to eat the carrots. At the end of the 7 minutes, tell the students to swallow what is in their mouths and to stop eating any more carrots. Remind them to put whatever they haven’t eaten back into their paper bags. Collect the bags and thank the children for participating and helping your with your human behavior science fair project. Collecting Data
Meet your volunteer and collect his or her bags.
Go home and start counting how many carrots the children ate, as follows: Put on a pair of disposable gloves.
Don’t mix the bags, and start working either on the decorated paper bags or the plain brown paper bags. Record all of your data in your lab notebook, in a data table, like the one shown below. You should have a data table for the decorated paper bags and a data table for the plain brown paper bags. Count half and quarter portions, as well. For example, if a test subject ate part of a carrot, then estimate how much of the whole carrot it was.
Type of Bag (Plain or Decorated)The Number of Carrots Eaten (out of Five)
Analyzing the Data
Once you have finished counting carrots for both the decorated paper bags and the plain brown paper bags, discard the bags and the carrots. Remove your gloves and wash your hands. For each type of bag, sum the total number of carrots eaten. Record the data in a data table, like the one shown below.
BagTotal Number of Carrots EatenPercent Carrots Eaten
Since you know the number of carrots that you placed in the decorated paper bags and the plain brown paper bags, calculate the percent of the carrots eaten for each type of bag. Calculate the percent eaten for each type of bag by dividing the total number of carrots eaten in those bags by the total number of carrots placed in the bags and multiplying by 100. Does the packaging make a difference? As defined in the introduction, CPRF are a sub-set of consumer products, such as cosmetics and liquid household products, which in design, shape, or presentation resemble food and could mistakenly be consumed by children or the elderly. More specifically, products that appear to be other than they are and endanger the health and safety of consumers can be defined as in the Council directive 87 /357 /EEC (Article 1, number 2): Products “which, although not foodstuffs, possess a form, odour, colour, appearance, packaging, volume or size, so that is likely that consumers, especially children, will confuse them with foodstuffs and in consequence place them in their mouths, or suck or ingest them, which might be dangerous and cause, for example, suffocation, poisoning, or the perforation or obstruction of the digestive tract.”
The scope of this opinion is limited to cosmetics and liquid household products. The present section aims to give examples of the characteristics that make cosmetics and liquid household products more food-resembling. 8.1.1. Colour
For the category of cosmetics and liquid household products, the characteristic of a food-resembling colour can be related to the packaging, or when the packing is transparent or missing, to the product itself. Liquid foods can have very different colours, such as orange (orange juice, soft drinks), white (milk), black (cola), brown (coffee, cocoa), red and yellow (several fruit juices and soft drinks). The same is true for solid foods. It should also be noted that colours such as blue or green, which were previously reserved for non-food products such as cleaners, are now also used in foods. Due to new trends in food marketing, the frontier between food products and cosmetics has been blurred. 8.1.2. Shape, packaging, imagery
For cosmetics, the characteristic of a food-resembling shape can be related to either the product shape itself (e.g. soaps that are shaped like lemons) or to the product packaging. Product packages that resemble, in their shape, real-life containers of solid foods, such as cans, bowls, plates etc. have a food-resembling shape. For liquid household products, the characteristic of a food-resembling shape is mainly related to the product packaging. Product packages that resemble, in their shape, real-life containers of liquid foods, such as bottles, cans, cups, glasses etc. have a food-resembling shape.
Not only the product itself or the shape of the product package can resemble a food, but also the imagery used on the packaging can create an association with food. For instance, oranges can be pictured on an orange-coloured shower gel, or lemons on a household cleaner. Other aspects of food packaging that are displayed on a non-food product, such as fake nutrition tables, can also increase the extent to which a product is food- resembling. 8.1.3. Taste and odour
For cosmetics and liquid household products, characteristics of odour or flavour are conveyed primarily either by imagery (see above), or by names and other written descriptions on the product. Product packages can also be opened to sample the odour directly. Odours, flavour and their descriptions can make a product more imitating when they closely resemble real food odours and flavours (e.g. fruity shower gels, honey lip balms) or when the description suggests that they do (e.g. “Sweet lime body butter”). Bitter tastes are generally not preferred, which is why bittering agents have been used to deter ingestions and poisonings. The impact of bittering agents in poisoning prevention is discussed further in section 8.3 and Annex IV.
8.1.4. Accessibility and storage
Placement at point of sale: products are more food-resembling when they are placed close to food products. Storage: food-resembling products could be consumed in error when they are stored close to food. Since the elderly often live in small spaces, this is can be a contributing factor. The characteristics of CPRF discussed above are based on descriptions of the properties of food-resembling products that could lead to poisoning.
There are no studies, for any of the characteristics mentioned, that tested experimentally the likelihood of poisoning or ingestion with regard to cosmetics and liquid household products. Although there are case reports (e.g. the ingestions of a colourful cleaning product, see Annex II ￼), there are no experimental data available that show causally that, for instance, liquid household products with an orange colour (relatively more food-resembling) are ingested more often than the same products with a blue colour (relatively less food-resembling). Nevertheless, the above mentioned characteristics can serve as proxies to evaluate whether products are more or less food-resembling, until more specific data are available. 8.2. Characteristics of child-appealing products (CAP)
CAP can also be defined as a sub-set of normal consumer products that are appealing to children by design or presentation and may therefore be consumed by children by mistake. There is an overlap between CPRF and CAP (e.g. some food-resembling products may be particularly child-appealing), but the two categories are not identical. The scope of this opinion is limited to cosmetics and liquid household products.
The present section aims to give an overview of the characteristics that make cosmetics and liquid household products appealing to children. It should be noted, however, that the appeal of a product for children cannot be defined objectively, but only in relative terms (this is different to CPRF, where it is possible to describe the extent to which a product imitates a food by comparing it to that food). Children can be attracted to nearly anything within their reach, depending on the number and type of other attractors in their environment, their situational and dispositional inclination to explore, and many other factors. For the assessment that CAP can pose a serious risk to health and safety of children, the personal and environmental risk factors presented in section 7 will therefore be of particular importance. Examples of characteristics of child-appealing products are given below: 8.2.1. Colour
Attractively coloured packaging may serve to influence children’s selection or persuasion in stores, and colour is also an important determinant of food liking and judgements of sweetness and other tastes (Hutchings 2003, Lavin and Lawless 1998, Léon et al. 1999). However, studies on colour preferences in children for different products do not show any consistent results. Examples include: In an older study by Schneider (1977) with children between 3 and 5 years of age and empty product packages without any specific product relation, white containers led to the largest proportion of high attraction (48%) followed by black containers (33%), and finally, red containers (26%).
Only these three colours were offered to the children. In a study of colour preferences for different types of candies in children aged between 5 and 9 years, children preferred candies that were red, green, orange and yellow, in that order (Walsh et al. 1990). Only these four colours were offered. Another study investigated colour preferences for three types of products (cereals, biscuits and drinks) with children aged 3 to 5 years. The colours chosen most frequently were pink (40.9%), purple (15%) and yellow (15%), and these colours were also among the favourite colours of the children in general. Nine different colours were offered in this study (Marshall et al. 2006). The results seem to be highly dependent on the type of product, choice set of colours and age of children. Children up to 5 years do not seem to be able to give repeatable results when asked for their favourite product colours (Léon et al. 1999). 8.2.2. Shape, packaging, imagery
Products that are marketed for children generally use lots of vivid imagery, often in cartoon or comic style. Children are attracted to products that picture a cartoon character or other characters or objects that they are familiar with from other contexts, e.g. from TV or books (Ülger 2009). For instance, in a study with 4 to 6 year olds, children significantly preferred the taste of foods that had popular cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters (Roberto et al. 2010).
Food products presented in this study were graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks and carrots. Child-proof caps make it difficult for children less than 5 years of age to consume significant quantities of household chemical consumer products (Bateman 2003; see also WHO 2008a). In contrast to CPRF, there are no general characteristics of the shape or consistency of cosmetics and liquid household products that make them relatively more child- appealing. For young children, the presence of product labels or warnings will not have an effect because they cannot read or interpret them (WHO 2008a). Even though older children can read, the information that a product may not be suitable for a certain age group is not very likely to have an effect. The results of the study of Schneider (1977) even suggested that in children between 3 and 5 years of age the labelling of e.g. poison (skull and cross bones) may itself be attractive. 8.2.3. Taste and odour
Children initially prefer sweet tastes and reject sour and bitter tastes; these are genetic predispositions (Berk 2009, Birch 1999, Birch and Fisher 1998b, Schwartz et al. 2009). Later on, their preferences for the majority of foods are shaped by repeated experiences (Berk 2009, Birch 1998a). A developmental study with 1,291 children aged from 4 to 16 years showed that across age and gender, children rated sugary and fatty foods most highly, although ratings for fruit were also high (Cooke and Wardle 2005). In this study, girls liked fruit and vegetables more than boys did; boys liked fatty and sugary foods, meat, processed meat products and eggs more than girls. Analyses of the type of foods marketed to children show correspondingly that these are predominantly high in sugar and fat (Elliott 2008, Story and French 2004). With growing age and perceptual-attentional skill, children seem to focus more on flavour (rather than colour) when asked to identify drinks (Oram et al. 1995; see also Liem et al. 2004).
Bitter tastes are generally not preferred, which is why bittering agents have been used to deter ingestions and poisonings. The impact of bittering agents in poisoning prevention is discussed further in section 8.3 and Annex IV. Odour is an important cue for taste, so it can be expected that children will prefer sweet, fruity and candy-like odours. The study of Schneider (1977) showed that odour can also be an attractor in itself: packages with no fragrance, pleasant fragrance and antiseptic fragrance resulted in 30, 33 and 44% attraction, respectively, in children between 3 and 5 years of age. It is difficult to predict what sort of fragrances will attract children. The above mentioned examples of characteristics of CAP were mainly identified in studies about children’s food preferences.
There are no studies, for any of the characteristics mentioned, that tested experimentally children’s ingestion likelihood with regard to different characteristics of cosmetics and liquid household products. Thus, to the best of our knowledge, there are no experimental data available that show directly that, for instance, cosmetics with a sweet smell, strong colours or cartoon characters displayed on the packaging are more likely to be ingested than others. Nevertheless, the above mentioned characteristics can serve as proxies to evaluate whether products are more or less child- appealing, until more specific data are available.
More systematic research, in particular, should be done on children’s reactions to non-food products in order to better understand how children may react in front of a package and label design. 8.3. Food-resembling or child-appealing product characteristics and the probability for accidental ingestion An overview of the characteristics that make a product relatively more food-resembling or child-appealing is given in sections 8.1 and 8.2. A ranking of the characteristics is not possible, given that there are no data available that allow for a direct comparison of the impact of the features on the risk of poisoning or ingesting the product. However, in order to be able to better compare products and product designs with regard to their food-resembling or child-appealing properties, a simple summary score for each of the characteristics mentioned above could be obtained.
A product that has a food-resembling shape, colour and smell, with a packaging that displays food-imagery, is probably more likely to be mistaken for a food than one that has only a food-resembling colour. Similarly, a product that displays cartoon characters on the package, tastes and smells sweet is probably more child-appealing than a product that just tastes sweet. However, given the limited data basis, and given that that the appeal of a product for children cannot be defined objectively, both CPRF and CAP scores would have to be interpreted cautiously and only have heuristic value until more systematic research is available. The use of bittering agents as “aversives” has been advocated as a possible method of preventing toxic ingestions by children. The most commonly recommended agent
denatonium benzoate (Bitrex) was found to have an unpleasant and bitter taste at concentrations as low as 50 ppb in liquid products (Berning et al. 1982, Hansen et al. 1993, Lawless et al. 1982, Payne 1988, Sibert and Frude 1991).
There are no published data on the effectiveness of aversing agents in limiting the ingestion of household products. Anecdotal information (Klein-Schwartz and Oderda, 1991) indicates that it may not prevent significant accidental ingestions. A single swallow of some products, such as caustics and hydrocarbons, may be toxic. Addition of aversive agents would not be effective on the outcomes of such ingestions. Hydrocarbons are especially noteworthy because they produce toxicity by being aspired rather than by being ingested.
Children may vomit after drinking denatonium benzoate spiked liquids. Thus the addition of denatonium benzoate to hydrocarbons might actually increase the potential for toxicity of these ingestions, because the act of vomiting increases the risk of aspiration. There is no information available on effects of ingestion of products containing bittering agents by the elderly NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Children significantly prefer the taste of junk foods branded with licensed cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters, according to a new study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. The study, published in Pediatrics, shows a causal relationship between licensed characters on food packaging and children’s taste and snack preferences.
In the study, children between the ages of 4- and 6-years old tasted three pairs of identical foods (graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks and carrots) presented in packages either with or without a popular cartoon character. Children tasted both food items in each pair and indicated whether the two tasted the same, or if one tasted better. Children then selected which of the foods they would prefer to eat for a snack. Results indicated that children were significantly more likely to prefer the taste of the low-nutrient, high-energy foods such as graham crackers and gummy fruit snacks when a licensed cartoon character appeared on the package. The difference in preference was not significant for carrots.
The study also found that children were significantly more likely to choose any of the licensed character-branded food items for snacks than those in packages without characters. Rather than advocating the use of licensed characters in the marketing of healthy foods, the findings suggest a need for regulation to curtail the use of licensed characters in the marketing of low-nutrient, high-energy foods, say the researchers. “Our results provide evidence that licensed characters can influence children’s eating habits negatively by increasing positive taste perceptions and preferences for junk food,” wrote lead author Christina Roberto, M.S. “Given that 13% of marketing expenditures targeting youths are spent on character licensing and other forms of cross-promotion, our findings suggest that the use of licensed characters on junk food packaging should be restricted.” CHICAGO – The use of media characters on cereal packaging may influence children’s opinions about taste, according to a report in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
The article is the outgrowth of a study by Annenberg doctoral students Matthew Lapierre and Sarah Vaala, and Deborah L. Linebarger, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication. “The use of trade (e.g. Ronald McDonald) and licensed (e.g. Shrek) spokescharacters is a popular marketing practice in child-directed products because the presence of these figures helps children identify and remember the associated product,” the authors write as background information in the article. Because children remember nonverbal representations more easily than verbal descriptions, a visual cue such as a character or logo, may help them remember information presented in an advertisement. Lapierre and Vaala evaluated 80 children between the ages of 4 and 6 years (average age 5.6 years), to determine if using a licensed spokescharacter on food packaging affected children’s taste assessment of the cereal.
Children were shown boxes of cereal labeled either Healthy Bits or Sugar Bits, with some boxes featuring media characters and some without. Having seen only the box, participants were asked to rate the taste of the cereal on a scale of one to five. Almost all the children reported liking the cereal, however those who saw a popular media character on the box reported liking the cereal more than those who viewed a box without a character on it. Additionally, those who sampled the cereal named Healthy Bits reported enjoying the cereal more than children who were given the same cereal under the name Sugar Bits.
Children receiving the cereal with the name Sugar Bits in a box with no characters on it reported beingsignificantly less satisfied with the taste than those in the other three groups. No significant differences were found among children in the Healthy Bits group based on the presence or absence of characters on the box. “The results of this experiment provide evidence that the use of popular characters on food products affects children’s assessment of taste,” the authors conclude. “Messages encouraging healthy eating may resonate with young children, but the presence of licensed characters on packaging potentially overrides children’s assessments of nutritional merit.” Childhood obesity is a problem not just in a few countries but worldwide.
Overweight or obese children and adolescents have the same medical problems as adults, such as hypertension as well as in psychological problems, such as depression. Furthermore, Anderson & Butcher (2006) stated that increasing childhood obesity is related to increasing adult obesity which suggest that obese children are at an increased risk of becoming obese in adulthood. This is one more reason that obesity in children is a serious problem in society. Food choice may be defined as “a complex human behavior influenced by many interrelating factors including marketing and economic variables as well as social, psychological, cultural, biological, religious, and demographic factors” (Pierre, Receveur, Macaulay, & Montour, 2007).
Familial changes and marketing strategies, such as food television advertising or using characters in food packaging, are likely to contribute to rising obesity rates. This essay will argue that the role of parents in children food choices as well as familial changes which may occur, have an influence on children and adolescent food choices. Further, it will examine the extent of food marketing and impact to their food choices.
It is clear that there are many variables within the family setting that can affect children’s eating behavior (Johannsen, Johannsen, & Specker, 2005). According to Johannsen et al (2005) research, children’s eating behavior and their parent’s eating behavior are not related. In contrast, Scaglioni, Salvioni, & Galimberti (2008) found that the parents influences their children’s environment that may developing healthy eating behaviours in children. This is same statement with Childers & Hoy (2012) :
“Parents and guardians, specifically those with younger children, are
ultimately the true gatekeepers for much of their children’s food and beverage consumption.
Courtney from Study Moose
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