Eye On Health: Cartoon foods - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Eye On Health: Cartoon foods

Story by LaTrice Curry

Eyewitness News Anchor/Reporter

What does Scooby Doo have that mom and dad don't?

A lot -- according to a new study.

Kids are notoriously picky eaters. Pleas from mom and dad don't do much to influence children on what foods to choose.

But the pull this guy has on kids' taste preferences would make most parents pea green with envy.

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

Christina Roberto of Yale University put identical foods in front of a group of four to six year olds.

The only difference was how the snacks were packaged. One was plain. The other had a licensed cartoon character -- like Dora the Explorer -- on it.

Overwhelmingly -- the kids insisted they preferred the taste of the snack endorsed by Dora.

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

Roberto is pushing for 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," says Roberto.

A better place for guys like Scooby Doo and Shrek might be in the produce aisle. The kids in this study also said carrots tasted better when they had the approval of a cartoon character.

What parent wouldn't support the idea of mater tomatoes or princess peas?

Experts say the potential for healthier marketing is there -- you just have to use your head.

The study also tested the marketing powers of Shrek and Scooby Doo -- and found ...both highly influenced kids' taste buds.

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