Interpretation of two nutrition content claims: A New Zealand survey

ArticleinAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 34(1):57-62 · February 2010with14 Reads
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.
    • "Another limitation was the fact that the focus group methodology resulted in participants looking at nutrition information purposively and in a communal context, as opposed to a time-constrained, individual context as is usually the case when shopping. The negativity towards health claims expressed by the study participants is somewhat at odds with previous studies showing that health claims can induce a positivity bias (Abrams et al., 2015; Faulkner et al., 2014; Gorton et al., 2010; Harris et al., 2011; Saba et al., 2010; Soldavini et al., 2012; Wansink & Chandon, 2006). This is likely to have been at least partially the result of the intentional mismatch between the health claims and the nutrition profiles indicated by the FoPLs, but could also have been compounded by the focus group setting where participants may have been reluctant to appear gullible to marketing messages in front of their peers. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The majority of studies examining the effect of nutrition information on food packets (such as the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP), front-of-pack labels (FoPLs) and health claims) have examined each in isolation, even though they often occur together. This study investigated the relationship between FoPLs and health claims since (i) they both appear on the front of packs and typically receive more attention from consumers than the NIP, (ii) they can convey contradictory messages (i.e., health claims provide information on nutrients that are beneficial to health while FoPLs provide information on nutrients associated with increased health risks) and (iii) there is currently scant research on how consumers trade off between these two sources of information. Ten focus groups (n= 85) explored adults’ and children’s reactions when presented with both a FoPL (the Daily Intake Guide, Multiple Traffic Lights, or the Health Star Rating) and a health claim (nutrient content, general-level-, or high-level). A particular focus was participants’ processing of discrepant information. Participants reported that health claims were more likely to be considered during product evaluations if they were perceived to be trustworthy, relevant and informative. Trust and ease of interpretation were most important for FoPLs, which were more likely than health claims to meet criteria and be considered in during product evaluation (especially the Health Star Rating and Multiple Traffic Lights). Results indicate that consumers generally find FoPLs easier to interpret than health claims.
    Full-text · Article · May 2016
    • "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). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Food claims invite controversies on account of their potential to mislead consumers while at times masquerading as health information devices. In the United States, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand, scholars have extensively studied the prevalence of food claims, the regulatory repercussions, and effects of such claims on consumers’ food perceptions and dietary choices. Our study is an attempt to address a gap in related research focused on Asia by situating the inquiry in Singapore where consumers are exposed to a wide variety of such claims due to the universality of food imports. This study examines the state of food claims by the food product’s region of origin, and focus specifically on the use of terms “natural” and “fresh” on food labels. We present recommendations for food marketing policymakers and practitioners.
    Article · Oct 2015
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