I would have thought that you'd have to be pretty naive and credulous to have taken the original news stories seriously, but on that measure there are apparently a lot of naive and credulous people out there.
These kinds of stories in the media are morality tales, not science. They are pushed by moral entrepreneurs because they send the "right message", not because they are strongly supported by evidence.
Junkfood Science sets the scene to give you an idea of the type of poor quality and pseudo-scientific rubbish that is used to create the atmosphere of paranoia and panic surrounding the food we eat:
Though perhaps to be fair to the author, doctoral student Kerri Tobin, she wasn't exactly fairly dealt with by Adi Bloom, who's article in the Times Educational Supplement set off the worldwide explosion of stupid headlines, such as “Fast food diet makes children more stupid” and “Too much fast food 'harms children's test scores.”
Himmelgarten Cafe contacted Tobin, (something that no reporter bothered to do), and amongst other things she acknowledged some of the manifest weaknesses of the paper and was not aware that anything was going to be coming out in the press.
She remembered being asked for a copy of her paper by an Englishwoman at the AERA meeting, but it was clearly marked "do not cite without author's permission."
As indicated above, Bloom did not bother to seek Tobin's permission.
Sandy from Junkfood Science continues:
I've asked the question before - why is bread, beef, lettuce, tomato and onion considered to be good and honest and wholesome if prepared in the home, but becomes "junk food" full of "empty calories" (whatever that means exactly) if prepared at Hungry Jacks (Burger King)?