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Products that resemble foods and appeal to children Potential risks of accidental ingestion

3. What makes products appeal to children or resemble food?

    Some warning labels could make products even more appealing to children.
    Some warning labels could make products even more appealing to children.
    Credit: Wikimedia commons

    There have been no studies to evaluate the effect of different characteristics of a product that make it resemble food or appealing to children on the likelihood of accidental poisoning. However, it is likely that a product that looks, smells and tastes like food and is attractively packaged, is more likely to be confused with food and ingested, particularly by children, than a product which does not resemble food and is stored in a plain container.

    Solid food and drink comes in many different colours. In the past, colours like blue or green were only used for products such as cleaners but now these colours are also used in food items so it is hard to distinguish between food and non-food products by their colour alone.

    Some cosmetics can be mistaken for food because they are shaped like real food items, or are packaged in food containers such as plates, bowls or glasses. Labels that contain food pictures and fake nutrition tables make cosmetic products and cleaners look even more like food.

    Manufacturers sometimes put names, pictures and writing in the labels that describe the smell and taste of their products, and these often imitate food items. Cosmetics that are sold or stored next to foodstuffs can be confused for food items and accidentally ingested.

    Children can be attracted to anything within their reach but some products are particularly appealing:

    Children like attractively coloured packaging but they do not have one favourite colour. Instead, their colour preference depends on the type of product, the choice of colours on offer and the age of the child. The shape of the container does not seem to make products any more or less appealing to children but packaging in vivid colours showing familiar characters from TV or books, do.

    Product labels or warnings have no effect on young children because they cannot read them. Hazard symbols such as skull and cross bones may make products even more attractive.

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