Interpretation of two nutrition content claims: A New Zealand survey

University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 1.98). 02/2010; 34(1):57-62. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2010.00474.x
Source: PubMed


To determine how various population groups in New Zealand interpret the nutrition content claims '97% fat free' and 'no added sugar' on food labels.
A survey of adult supermarket shoppers was conducted at 25 Auckland supermarkets over a six-week period in 2007. Supermarkets were located in areas where greater than 10% of the resident population were known to be Māori, Pacific or Asian, based on 2001 Census meshblock data. Four questions in the survey assessed understanding and interpretation of the nutrition content claims '97% fat free' and 'no added sugar'.
There were 1,525 people who completed the survey, with approximately equal representation from Māori, Pacific, Asian and New Zealand European and Other ethnicities. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of participants correctly estimated the fat content of a 100 g product that was '97% fat free', and understood that a product with 'no added sugars' could contain natural sugar. However, up to three-quarters of Māori, Pacific, and Asian shoppers assumed that if a food carried a '97% fat free' or 'no added sugar' claim it was therefore a healthy food. Similarly, low-income shoppers were significantly more likely than medium- or high-income shoppers to assume that the presence of a claim meant a food was definitely healthy.
Percentage fat free and no added sugar nutrition content claims on food are frequently misinterpreted by shoppers as meaning the food is healthy overall and appear to be particularly misleading for Māori, Pacific, Asian and low-income groups.
Nutrition content claims have potential for harm if the food they are placed on is not healthy overall. Such claims should therefore only be permitted to be placed on healthy foods.

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    • "For instance, a series of three studies in the US showed that low-fat nutrition labels lead consumers (especially those overweight) to overeat snack foods by increasing perceptions of appropriate serving size and decreasing consumption guilt (Wansink & Chandon, 2006). In a recent study Drewnowski and colleagues (2010) found that perceived healthfulness of food products among consumers was most strongly driven by declared presence of protein, fiber, calcium and Vitamin C. Contrastingly nutrient content claims can be harmful if the food they are placed on is not healthy overall (Gorton, Mhurchu, Bramley, & Dixon, 2010); indeed they could also mislead when marketers emphasize one nutritional attribute without disclosing other, less healthful ones (Kelly, Hattersley, King, & Flood, 2009) A nutrient function claim is " a nutrition claim that describes the physiological role of the nutrient in growth, development and normal functions of the body " (Codex Alimentarius, 1997) . Among the few studies to specifically focus on the presence of different types of food claims, found that nearly 14% of Australian food products analyzed used nutrient function claims (Williams, et al., 2006). "

    Journal of Food Products Marketing 10/2015; DOI:10.1080/10454446.2014.1000450
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