Food labels promote healthier eating choices

Dec 18, 2018

The research, led by Tufts University researchers, found that labelling reduced consumers’ intake of calories by 6.6 per cent, total fat by 10.6 per cent and other unhealthy food options by 13 per cent. Hence it is true Labels on packaged foods such as nutrition facts, “low-sodium” or “fat-free” as well as calorie counts on restaurant menus have to some extent encouraged healthier eating choices.

Labelling also increased consumers’ vegetable consumption by 13.5 per cent, but did not significantly impact consumer intakes of other targets such as total carbohydrate, total protein, saturated fat, fruits, whole grains or other healthy options, the researchers rued.

When industry responses were evaluated, the team found that labelling led to reductions of both trans-fat and sodium in packaged foods by 64.3 per cent and 8.9 per cent, respectively. However, no significant effects of labelling were identified for industry formulations of total calories, saturated fat, dietary fibre, other healthy components (e.g., protein and unsaturated fat), or other unhealthy components (e.g., total fat, sugar, and dietary cholesterol), although relatively few studies evaluated these endpoints.

For industry responses, it’s interesting that the two altered components-trans-fat and sodium-are additives. This suggests that industry may be more readily able to alter additives, as opposed to naturally occurring ingredients such as fat or calories, in response to labelling. It will be interesting to see whether this will translate to added sugar.

Further, the team found no consistent differential effects by label placements (menu, package, other point-of-purchase), label types (e.g. nutrient content), suggesting information may be more relevant to consumers.

 

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