Mother and Baby

Children can’t recognise or enjoy ‘real’ food any more, says survey

Section: Meals & Baking
Children can’t recognise or enjoy ‘real’ food any more, says survey

A new study suggests that engineered foods are impacting children’s ability to recognise, experience and enjoy the taste of ‘real’ foods.

The research document, “Engineering Taste - Is this the future of our children’s food?”, by Greg Tucker, Taste Psychologist and Professor Andy Taylor, Nottingham University, says children are growing up thinking chickens don’t have bones and apples don’t have cores.

Many engineered foods claim to be ‘natural’ on the packaging, making it confusing for mums trying to buy the best quality food for their little ones. 

The food industry creates easy and quick meals for children, but which don’t resemble ‘real’ foodstuffs despite their marketing claims. 


A classic example is the chicken nugget. It might be made of 100% chicken breast meat, with no artificial colourings or flavourings, but it has been engineered into a bitesize, convenient form that doesn’t resemble a real chicken at all. 

Researcher, Taste Psychologist Greg Tucker says, “We’re seeing a new take on artificial. The addition of a natural ingredient to a food, but one not expected or understood, and designed to shift or materially enhance the delivery is an artifice – carrot juice in a strawberry yoghurt is clearly not right. This zone of artifice is a deliberate mislead by the food industry, and it’s changing how children eat.


“These engineered foods behave differently when it comes to flavour release. Rather than a slowly released flavour that moves at the pace of the chew, we get a more instant hit of flavour and an immediate reward.  But this flavour burst quickly dies away and leaves children feeling emptier sooner, so they eat more.  Eating more engineered foods and fewer ‘real’ foods means that children miss the experience of the ‘real’ taste and instead look for immediate gratification.”

A survey by Organix of 1,000 mums supports the suggestion that children are losing their taste for real food, with the surveyed mums saying: 

  • Two thirds of children prefer chicken nuggets (66%) to chicken breast (34%).
  • Eight out of 10 children prefer tomato ketchup (81%) to fresh tomatoes (19%).
  • Eight out of 10 children prefer fish fingers (81%) to fillet of fish (19%).
  • Nearly half (49%) say that a little ketchup or mayonnaise helps the vegetables go down.
  • Author: Sophie Knight Sophie Knight
  • Job Title: Contributing Editor

Sophie is a journalist and mum of one, and previously edited before moving on to write about family cars for - now Sophie is Commercial Content Editor for M&B, Closer, Heat, Empire, Yours, Garden News, and 

She is passionate about raising awareness around postnatal depression and is a Mental Health First Aider.

Sophie studied History at the University of Sheffield and has been in journalism for 16 years. 

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