Page last updated at 05:25 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Survey reveals children's food knowledge worrying

Young girl planting seeds
Growing vegetables could help increase children's food knowledge

Many children between the ages of six and eight cannot identify the origins of the everyday foods they eat, a survey has revealed.

In a survey of 1,000 pupils in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, fewer than one in four knew that beef burgers are sourced from cattle.

In research for rural insurance firm Cornish Mutual, some said eggs came from sheep and cheese from butterflies.

Most children, however, were able correctly to identify vegetables.

The survey was used to determine children's level of awareness and knowledge of vegetables, dairy products and meat produce and to see if they were able to recognise how they are sourced.

There are some huge gaps in their knowledge
Alan Goddard, Cornish Mutual

Among the more bizarre responses from pupils were those who believed rabbits, plastic or sheep were the main ingredient of crisps. Two-thirds correctly identified they were made from potatoes.

Others said yogurts came from turkeys or ducks and bacon from horses.

Children's recognition of vegetables was better, ranging from 98% for carrots and sweetcorn to a low of 44% for swede.

Levels of animal recognition were even higher, with all pupils correctly identifying cows, 99% for pigs, 98% for chickens and 97% for sheep.

'Food origins'

Alan Goddard, managing director of Cornish Mutual, described the survey results as "surprising".

"Given that we are surrounded by farming and the countryside, we would have expected children in the region to know more about the origins of their food," he said.

"Clearly they do have an understanding, however there are some huge gaps in their knowledge."

Mr Goddard said Cornish Mutual was supporting a "Dig Down South West" campaign, aimed at encouraging children to grow their own produce, and increase their food knowledge.

The scheme, which will help to create 50 new vegetable gardens in schools across the region, will be launched later by television gardener Charlie Dimmock.

"It provides the opportunity for them to be creative and the children can see the progress of what they're growing, and in the process of growing they learn a whole lot more," she said.

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