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Food origins still lost on children

By Laurence Gibbons+

02-Jun-2014
Last updated the 04-Jun-2014 at 11:37 GMT

Children think bread comes from animals
Children think bread comes from animals

Children think that bread, potatoes and pasta all come from animals and that carbohydrate is more calorific than fat, a new study by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has revealed.

The research – launched at the start of the BNF’s Healthy Eating Week – of over 13,100 school children across the UK showed “alarming misconceptions” about nutrition and the origins of food.

The ignorance mirrored last year’s survey which revealed children thought fish fingers came from chicken.

A quarter of 5–8 year-olds and 14% of 8-11 year-olds surveyed thought bread came from animals while over a quarter (26%) of 5–8 year-olds and 22% of 8–11 year-olds thought cheese came from plants.

Pasta comes from animals

Nearly a fifth of primary school children said potatoes came from animals, and almost a quarter of primary school children, plus 13% of 8–11 year olds, indicated that pasta came from animals.

One in every 10 primary school children surveyed thought that bacon came from sheep, while 17% thought fish fingers came from chicken.

The BNF’s education programme manager Roy Ballam said the results indicated why educating children about how foods were produced and arrived on their plates was important.

“For the second year running our research shows the majority of 11-16 year olds (52%) believed that carbohydrate provided more energy than either fat or protein when, in fact, fat is more calorific,” he said. “This misunderstanding is worrying when considered in relation to obesity.”

Knowledge about the importance of hydration and nutrition wasn’t lost on children, yet it still was not being translated into action, Ballam added.

According to the research, 85% of children aged between five and 16 knew they should eat five or more fruit and vegetables each day, but only 30% actually did.

Valuable building blocks

“The gap between knowledge and action in some areas is concerning but it is also clear that some important information across all areas of food, nutrition and lifestyle is being retained across the age groups and this provides valuable building blocks for their learning and becoming more informed,”  Ballam said.

Research showed children as young as five to eight years old understood the value of eating fish and 96% confessed to knowing they should eat some fish each week.

“However, 19% of this age group report that they never eat fish at all, while 14% of six to eight year-olds and one fifth of five to eight year-olds don’t either,” Ballam claimed.

26% of primary school children and 48% of secondary school children knew they should drink between six to eight drinks each day, yet only 17% of primary and 24% of secondary school children actually said they consumed that amount.

Watch our video interview with Ballam to find out how Healthy Eating Week aims to change misconceptions among children.

Healthy Eating Week runs from June 2–6 and will involve over 4,200 schools and almost 1.8M people across the UK.

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