PALO ALTO, California: Even the humble carrot tastes better when served in a McDonald's wrapper - or so believe America's kids, according to a new report by obesity prevention expert Dr Thomas Robinson of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

In a paper for Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Robinson suggests that marketing by the fast food industry has penetrated deep into the psyche of pre-school children.

In tests offering pre-school kids a choice of non brand-wrapped vegetables versus brand-wrapped vegetables, "overwhelmingly, [they] chose the one that they perceived was from McDonald's".

In about 60% of the tastings, children preferred food in the McDonald's wrapper. "They actually thought the food tasted better," said Robinson.

Some 22% of the sample chose food in the plain wrappers, while a further 18% said that the food tasted the same or were unable to complete the experiment.

Other tests "ranged from 48% who chose the hamburger up to over 70% who chose French fries as tasting better if they thought they were from McDonald's," Robinson reports.

"Even for baby carrots, kids said the carrots they thought were from McDonald's tasted better," he said. The same was true of milk.

McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker responded to the report's findings with the traditional non sequitur: "McDonald's is only advertising Happy Meals with white meat McNuggets, fresh apple slices and low-fat milk, a right-sized meal of only 375 calories,"

He added: "Our recent program with Shrek was our biggest-ever promotion of fruits, vegetables and milk, another indication of our progressive approach to responsible marketing."

The good doctor, however, is capable of shooting down a low-flying non sequitur at three hundred paces. "The majority of [McDonald's] marketing and reputation and brand is based on foods that are high in calories and fat and low in nutritional value."

Data sourced from / Reuters; additional content by WARC staff