The science on front-of-package food labels

1The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, 2300 I Street NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA.
Public Health Nutrition (Impact Factor: 2.25). 03/2012; 16(3):1-10. DOI: 10.1017/S1368980012000754
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT OBJECTIVE: The US Food and Drug Administration and Institute of Medicine are currently investigating front-of-package (FOP) food labelling systems to provide science-based guidance to the food industry. The present paper reviews the literature on FOP labelling and supermarket shelf-labelling systems published or under review by February 2011 to inform current investigations and identify areas of future research. DESIGN: A structured search was undertaken of research studies on consumer use, understanding of, preference for, perception of and behaviours relating to FOP/shelf labelling published between January 2004 and February 2011. RESULTS: Twenty-eight studies from a structured search met inclusion criteria. Reviewed studies examined consumer preferences, understanding and use of different labelling systems as well as label impact on purchasing patterns and industry product reformulation. CONCLUSIONS: The findings indicate that the Multiple Traffic Light system has most consistently helped consumers identify healthier products; however, additional research on different labelling systems' abilities to influence consumer behaviour is needed.

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    ABSTRACT: Breakfast cereals exhibit a wide variability in nutritional quality, and differences are not easily grasped by consumers. A simplified nutritional information system might contribute to help consumers make healthier food choices. A five-category colour label based on the Food Standards Agency Nutrient profiling system (FSA score) has been proposed in France to be implemented on the front-of-pack of foods (the five-colour nutrition label - 5-CNL). Objectives were to evaluate the ability of the 5-CNL to discriminate nutritional quality between types of breakfast cereals, within a category and in equivalent products, as well as its ability to change through product reformulation. Nutritional information was collected through an Internet and supermarket research for N = 433 breakfast cereals (N = 380 complete data included in the analyses). Breakfast cereals were categorized according to common attributes in terms of processing and/or ingredients used. The FSA score and 5-CNL category allocation were computed for each cereal. Nutrient content and FSA score were compared across types of cereals. Distribution within the 5-CNL categories was assessed across types of cereals and for equivalent products. Impact of reformulation (reduction of 5 and 10% in simple sugar, saturated fat and sodium) on the 5-CNL category allocation was compared to original allocation with Bapkhar's tests of homogeneity of marginal distribution. Variability in nutritional quality of breakfast cereals was high, as reflected by the FSA score (range -7- 22 for a theoretical range of -15-40) and the 5-CNL (all five categories represented). The 5-CNL allowed for discrimination across types of cereals, within categories of breakfast cereals and for equivalent products (at least 3 categories of the 5-CNL represented). Reformulation scenarios allowed for significant change in 5-CNL allocation: 5% reduction in sugar lead to a modification of the label for 4.21% of products while a reduction of 10% of sugar, saturated fat and sodium lead to a modification of the label for 19.2% of products. The 5-CNL adequately discriminates between breakfast cereals. It would therefore be an adequate tool for consumer information on nutritional quality of foods in the French context.
    BMC Public Health 12/2015; 15(1):1522. DOI:10.1186/s12889-015-1522-y · 2.32 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To identify peer-reviewed research on consumers' usage and attitudes towards the nutrition label and the food industry's response to labelling regulations outside Europe, North America, and Australia and to determine knowledge gaps for future research. Narrative review. This review identified nutrition labelling research from 20 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Consumers prefer that pre-packaged food include nutrition information, although there is a disparity between rates of use and comprehension. Consumer preference is for front-of-pack labelling and for information that shows per serving or portion as a reference unit, and label formats with graphics or symbols. Research on the food and beverage industry's response is more limited but shows that industry plays an active role in influencing legislation and regulation. Consumers around the world share preferences with consumers in higher income countries with respect to labelling. However, this may reflect the research study populations, who are often better educated than the general population. Investigation is required into how nutrition labels are received in emerging economies especially among the urban and rural poor, in order to assess the effectiveness of labelling policies. Further research into the outlook of the food and beverage industry, and also on expanded labelling regulations is a priority. Sharing context-specific research regarding labelling between countries in the global South could be mutually beneficial in evaluating obesity prevention policies and strategies.
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