icon-instagram icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-youtube icon-chevron-down icon-job icon-left-arrow icon-location icon-right-arrow
Skip to navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer

Study Shows Children Don't Know Food

Fish fingers and chips on a plate

A survey about food has revealed that children know very little about where their meals actually come from.

A worrying percentage of children believe that fish fingers are made from chicken, amongst other odd misconceptions.

Healthy Eating Week Survey

The survey was carried out by the British Nutrition Foundation as part of their Healthy Eating Week. They found 5,040 children based in the UK to answer their questions, which were posed between 24 April and 12 May 2017.

child eating cheese and ham

The answers that the children gave were worrying, to say the least. Some thought that fish fingers were made of chicken, that tomatoes grew underground, and that cheese was a kind of plant. If you currently work in a chef job this may give you reason to despair!

The children were separated into groups to assess the knowledge across different ages, and some of the results show that strange beliefs such as these can continue into teenage years.

The youngest group, of 5 to 7 year-olds, had the most outlandish views. 29% of them believe that cheese comes from a plant, while 22% think that pasta is made out of animals. 18% thought that fish fingers were made from chicken, but 73% of them did know that cod or haddock are the more usual materials.

The next group was the 8 to 11 year-olds, up to the age of leaving primary school. 25% of these held the strange idea that cheese grows on plants, and 13% thought that pasta was made from animals. Thankfully, 92% of this group identified fish as the main ingredient in fish fingers, but 6% still thought that they were chicken.

For the 11 to 14 year-olds, 11% thought that tomatoes grew underground. The same percentage also thought that fruit pastilles counted as their five-a-day, and 27% also included strawberry jam. The figures are extremely similar for the 14 to 16 year-olds, suggesting that not much is done for teens to learn about food.

Steps for education

It’s clear that more needs to be done to educate children about where their food comes from. If they don’t understand what they are eating, how can they possibly be expected to make a healthy choice?

This is also something that needs to be addressed for the future health of food recruitment. If kids aren’t interested enough to find out what they are really eating, are they going to be interested in producing it when they grow up? Particularly where the older group of children surveyed are concerned, they will be at the age to start choosing their GCSEs, A-Levels, and future career topics.

Roy Ballam, BNF managing director and head of education, said: "Schools and families can and should successfully work together to, in turn, educate children and then motivate them in their endeavours to make healthier choices. Furthermore, the links between physical activity, health and diet should be frequently highlighted by the Government's programmes."

There is a little bit of a positive point: 31% of the 11-14s and 28% of the 14-16s said that they knew lots about healthy eating and tried to stay on track. Around half of both age ranges also say they know lots, but don’t always follow the rules.

This may go some way towards explain the current epidemic of child obesity, which is proving to be a strain on the NHS as well as a big political talking point. If children understood more about why they might be putting weight on, they might be better at avoiding that situation – as well as the dangerous eating disorders that can be triggered.