McDonald's adverts for healthier Happy Meals fail to put children off their fries
Television adverts for McDonald's healthier Happy Meal deals fail to encourage children to choose food that is better for them and instead promote a general preference for fast food, academic research suggests.
This 'academic research' has not been published or submitted for publication. Indeed, it hasn't even been written up yet, but that doesn't bother the relentlessly statist Observer.
The gist of the article is that McDonald's should be banned from advertising all its products, including its healthier options, because the mere sight of the golden arches makes impressionable young minds hunger for french fries.
Dr Emma Boyland, of Liverpool University, who carried out the study, said the research into the choices of 59 children, six of whom were overweight and five obese, raised questions over whether the big fast food brands should be allowed to advertise to children.
Who, you may ask, is Emma Boyland? An impartial and rigorous scientist? A disinterested observer? A gallant seeker of truth who follows the evidence wherever it may lead?
I just signed a petition calling on the Government to take action on junk food ads targeting kids #FightTheJunkAds http://t.co/DoVDvOvcBY
— Emma Boyland (@EmmaBoyland) March 24, 2014
Here are the details of Boyland's research according to the Observer...
In Boyland's study, half of the children watched 10 programmes with adverts for McDonald's Happy Meals, while the other half watched the same number of programmes with toy adverts. Of those children who had watched the McDonald's adverts, 84% subsequently said that they had a liking for fast food. This compared to 76% of those who watched the toy adverts.
In other words, a large majority of the kids in both groups like fast food. The difference between 84% and 76% is trivial. It is, literally and statistically, insignificant. Bear in mind that the total sample size is just 59 (if I was going to divide a sample into two I would have picked an even number, but then I'm not a public health scientist).
So we have two pitifully small comparison groups, one of 30 and one of 29. About one classroom each. In one of them, 22 kids say they like fast food. In the other, 24 say they like fast food. That is random variation. It is nowhere near statistically significant. It is a meaningless finding and the research is worthless.
This sort of utter bilge is sadly typical in policy-based pseudo-health research.