Campden and Chorelywood Food Research Association (CCFRA) has published a review that aims to bring together all the research on triggers for children's food choices - be it biological or physiological, or related to taste, hunger, appearance, family habits, schools, advertising, cost and availability. "Understanding these will help both government and industry in their efforts to improve the overall healthiness of children's diets," said the CCFRA. In addition to the factors influencing choice themselves, the review looks at the long-term effects of choices, methods used to assess children's behaviour and analysis techniques. It is particularly timely since the UK's Office of Communication introduced the first in a series of curbs on TV advertising of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods aimed at children. The restrictions have proved controversial and stimulated much debate - but this has centred mostly on the Food Standards Agency's nutrient profiling model to assess which foods the restriction should apply to, rather than food consumption triggers themselves. A study conducted at the University of Liverpool and presented last month at the European Congress on Obesity in Budapest showed up a strong tendency for children to eat more after watching food adverts on TV. The team of psychologists conducted their study on a group of children aged between nine and eleven years, of varying weights and body mass indices. The children were shown a series of food advertisements and toy advertisements, followed by a cartoon. They were then allowed to eat food of differing far content at will - ranging from high fat sweet snacks to low fat savoury foods. Their findings showed a remarkable increase in consumption after watching the food ads, and this was particularly pronounced in the heaviest children. On May 22 the FSA launched a public consultation on the minimum skills and knowledge that children and young people should be expected to have at ages seven to nine, 11 to 12, 14 and 16+. Carried out in collaboration with the British Nutrition Foundation, its end aim is to make it easier for young people to make healthy food choices, based on key food skills and knowledge of what constitutes a healthy diet.
A new review of what influences children's food choices will help food companies develop and market appealing products - and aid bodies that regulate marketing practices, says publisher CCFRA.