Study: Cartoon characters may (negatively) influence children's snacking decisions

NEW YORK A new study published in the latest edition of Pediatrics found that children are enticed by snacks that feature stickers of popular cartoon characters.

The study, conducted by researchers at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, surveyed children ages 4 to 6 years to determine the correlation between the cartoon characters on food packaging and snack options for kids. Of three snack options -- gummy fruit, graham crackers and carrots -- children were asked to select which snack tasted best, given the option between packaging adorned with cartoon characters and without. The result: Most of the 40 children wanted the snacks labeled with cartoon stickers, and preferred gummy fruit and graham crackers with the stickers over carrots.

Christina Roberto, a graduate student at Yale University and lead author of the study, said her results may advocate the removal of licensed cartoon characters from all food packaging, since many snacks with cartoon character packaging typically are sugary snacks -- more unhealthy foods are targeted towards children than any other age group.

"We now have clear evidence of something many people suspected -- that the use of these licensed characters has an impact on children's preferences in food," said Dr. Thomas Robinson, director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Stanford University School of Medicine.

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