Impact of 'traffic-light' nutrition information on online food purchases in Australia

WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University, Victoria.
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 1.98). 04/2011; 35(2):122-6. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2011.00684.x
Source: PubMed


'Traffic-light' nutrition labelling has been proposed as a potential tool for improving the diet of the population, yet there has been little published research on the impact of traffic-light nutrition labelling on purchases in a supermarket environment. This study examined changes to online consumer food purchases in response to the introduction of traffic-light nutrition information (TLNI).
The study consisted of a 10-week trial in a major Australian online grocery store. For the duration of the trial TLNI in the form of four colour-coded indicators representing the products' relative levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium content, was displayed on the product listing page of 53 of the retailer's own-brand products in five food categories (milk, bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits and frozen meals). The changes in sales before and after the introduction of TLNI were examined both within the intervention store and in a comparison store.
TLNI had no discernible impact on sales, with the change in sales in the intervention store corresponding to changes in sales in the comparison store. No relationship was observed between changes in sales and the relative healthiness of products.
This limited, short-term study found no evidence to support the notion that TLNI is likely to influence behaviour change. Further research is needed to examine the impact of providing TLNI in different contexts, for a longer duration and on more products, with and without complementary awareness and information campaigns.

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    • "Studies measuring food purchases objectively are vital since understanding a FOP label does not automatically imply that people will change food purchases. One recent study on the effects of FOP traffic-light nutrition labelling on online food purchases using sales data revealed that the traffic light indicators had no influence on sales [21]. Likewise, our study revealed no effects of food labels on food purchases. "
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    • "For example, consumer surveys by Kelly et al. (2008) in Australia and Gorton et al. (2009) in New Zealand both found that the TL labeling system provides a clear understanding and higher levels of acceptance for healthier food choices. In contrast, studies conducted by Sacks, Rayner, and Swinburn (2009) and Sacks et al. (2011) showed no significant effect of the relative healthiness of choices after introducing a TL nutrition system based on data on the change of sales of ready-meals and sandwiches in the UK, and 53 products from online stores in Australia before and after implementing a TL nutrition system, respectively . In another study, Moeser et al. (2009) showed that consumers of different nationalities preferred different types of FOP labeling systems; for example, consumers in Belgium preferred the TL system, while German consumers preferred the GDA system. "
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