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A qualitative study of consumer perceptions and use of traffic light food labelling in Ecuador

  • Wilma B Freire (a1), William F Waters (a1), Gabriela Rivas-Mariño (a1), Tien Nguyen (a1) and Patricio Rivas (a1)...



To analyse patterns of knowledge, comprehension, attitudes and practices regarding the traffic light label placed on processed food packages to inform Ecuadorian consumers about levels of added fat, sugar and salt.


Twenty-one focus group discussions organized by age group, sex and place of residence. Interviews with representatives of companies that manufacture or market processed foods. Analysis of regulations and structured observations of processed food labels.


Cities and towns in Ecuador’s coastal, highland and eastern lowland regions.


One hundred and seventy-eight participants in twenty-one focus group discussions and nine key informants.


Focus group participants knew about the traffic light label and understood the information it conveys, but not all changed their attitudes and practices related to the purchase and consumption of processed foods. Children, adolescents and adult males reported using the information infrequently; adolescents interested in health and adult women used the label the most to select products. Representatives of companies that manufacture or market processed foods generally opposed the policy, stating that the information is misleading. Nevertheless, some companies have reduced levels of added fat, sugar or salt in their products.


The traffic light label is an effective tool for conveying complex information. Its potential contribution to reduce consumption of products with high levels of fat, sugar and salt could be enhanced by promoting healthy diets among consumers who have not changed purchasing and consumption behaviour, by placing the label on front panels and by monitoring the production and marketing of processed foods.


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Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
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