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Impact of explained v. unexplained front-of-package nutrition labels on parent and child food choices: a randomized trial

  • Dan J Graham (a1) (a2), Rachel G Lucas-Thompson (a3), Megan P Mueller (a2) (a4), Melanie Jaeb (a2) and Lisa Harnack (a2)...
Abstract
Objective

The present study investigated whether parent/child pairs would select more healthful foods when: (i) products were labelled with front-of-package (FOP) nutrition labels relative to packages without labels; (ii) products were labelled with colour-coded Multiple Traffic Light (MTL) FOP labels relative to monochromatic Facts up Front (FuF) FOP labels; and (iii) FOP labels were explained via in-aisle signage v. unexplained.

Design

Participants were randomly assigned to one of five conditions: (i) FuF labels with in-aisle signs explaining the labels; (ii) FuF labels, no signage; (iii) MTL labels with in-aisle signage; (iv) MTL labels, no signage; (v) control group, no labels/signage. Saturated fat, sodium, sugar and energy (calorie) content were compared across conditions.

Setting

The study took place in a laboratory grocery aisle.

Subjects

Parent/child pairs (n 153) completed the study.

Results

Results did not support the hypothesis that MTL labels would lead to more healthful choices than FuF labels. The presence of FOP labels did little to improve the healthfulness of selected foods, with few exceptions (participants with v. without access to FOP labels selected lower-calorie cereals, participants with access to both FOP labels and in-aisle explanatory signage selected products with less saturated fat v. participants without explanatory signage).

Conclusions

Neither MTL nor FuF FOP labels led to food choices with significantly lower saturated fat, sodium or sugar. In-aisle signs explaining the FOP labels were somewhat helpful to consumers in making more healthful dietary decisions. New FOP labelling programmes could benefit from campaigns to increase consumer awareness and understanding of the labels.

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Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: Email Dan.Graham@colostate.edu
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