Natural Sciences

Children think ‘natural’ food is tastier, safer and more desirable

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

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Eating and lifestyle habits are established in early life and children are likely to adopt similar eating patterns to their parents.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and Yale said that adult preference for food that is perceived as ‘natural’ is well-documented, as evidenced by demand for clean label products and scepticism around ‘Franken-food’ technologies like genetic modification.  

“Adults often prefer things that they believe are natural, including natural foods. This preference has serious implications, such as the rejection of cultured meat and other sustainable technologies,”​ the study authors noted.

But what about kids? They decided to look into children’s attitudes to the ‘naturalness’ of food in more detail.

The latest research findings suggest that this food bias exists in early and middle childhood as well, with children rating food they believe is ‘natural’ higher for tastiness, safety and desirability.

Children sceptical about apples ‘grown in a lab’

To unpick this food preference, the Scottish and American researchers examined the preferences of more than 374 adults and children in the United States when presented with apples and orange juice and told of their origins.

The first study devised by the researchers looked at production methods and their impact on food production.

The researchers showed 137 children aged six- to 10-years-old three apples. They were told one was grown on a farm, one was made in a lab, and another grown on a tree inside a lab.

The team used questionnaires and statistical models to assess the children’s apple preferences in terms of perceived tastiness, perceived safety and desire to eat. Adults took part in the same study to compare age groups.

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Mamie M. Arndt