News article

Study: UK Children Still Confused About Food Origins

Posted:  Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Latest survey suggests almost one-third of UK children think cheese is made from plants and a quarter think fish fingers come from chicken or pigs. Nearly one in ten children think tomatoes grow underground.

There are still some ‘alarming misconceptions’ about food by the UK’s population of school children, according to research by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). The latest BNF study shows that more than half of secondary school children believe that carbohydrate is more calorific than fat, while 14% of 8-11 year-olds surveyed thought bread came from animals.

The survey, which was conducted as part of the BNF’s Healthy Eating Week, was carried out across 4,300 nursery, primary and secondary schools. As part of the event, more than 1.7m children will learn valuable lessons about healthy eating, cooking, food provenance and the benefits of physical activity.

For the second year running our research shows that the majority of 11-16 year olds (52%) believe that carbohydrate provides more energy than either fat or protein when, in fact, fat is more calorific,” explained education programme manager, Roy Ballam. “This misunderstanding is worrying when considered in relation to obesity.”

Nearly a fifth of primary school children said that potatoes come from animals, and almost a quarter of primary school children, plus more than one in ten (13%) of 8-11 year olds, indicated that pasta comes from animals.

One in every ten primary school children surveyed thinks that bacon comes from sheep, while 17% think that fish fingers come from chicken. Encouragingly, around a fifth of older children (11-16 year olds) want to know more about where their food comes from.

Ballam said: “Food origins, as the foundation of a good understanding of ingredients, cooking and healthy eating, is one of the key themes of Healthy Eating Week and our research shows why educating children in how foods are produced and arrive on their plates is important.”

When quizzed on the more general point as to whether they have breakfast each morning, the number of primary school children and those aged 11-14 who report not eating breakfast regularly has remained constant in the past year, while the number of 14-16 year olds reporting the same has increased from a quarter to 28% in the past year.

A massive 6 out of 10 (59%) 14-16 year olds say that they skip meals and almost half (47%) of 11-14 year olds say the same.

Ballam commented: “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.”

He concluded: “We know that schools play a vital role in educating children about food, nutrition, physical exercise and lifestyle, and this is why we have invested so much in producing free school resources and in making Healthy Eating Week an important milestone in the school calendar.”