Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The science on front-of-package food labels

  • Kristy L Hawley (a1), Christina A Roberto (a2), Marie A Bragg (a2), Peggy J Liu (a2), Marlene B Schwartz (a2) and Kelly D Brownell (a2)...

The US Food and Drug Administration and Institute of Medicine are currently investigating front-of-package (FOP) food labelling systems to provide science-based guidance to the food industry. The present paper reviews the literature on FOP labelling and supermarket shelf-labelling systems published or under review by February 2011 to inform current investigations and identify areas of future research.


A structured search was undertaken of research studies on consumer use, understanding of, preference for, perception of and behaviours relating to FOP/shelf labelling published between January 2004 and February 2011.


Twenty-eight studies from a structured search met inclusion criteria. Reviewed studies examined consumer preferences, understanding and use of different labelling systems as well as label impact on purchasing patterns and industry product reformulation.


The findings indicate that the Multiple Traffic Light system has most consistently helped consumers identify healthier products; however, additional research on different labelling systems’ abilities to influence consumer behaviour is needed.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The science on front-of-package food labels
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The science on front-of-package food labels
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The science on front-of-package food labels
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

6. EL Vyth , IH Steenhuis , SF Mallant et al. (2009) A front-of-pack nutrition logo: a quantitative and qualitative process evaluation in the Netherlands. J Health Commun 14, 631645.

7. J Switt (2007) Labeling around the globe: helping to direct food flow. J Am Diet Assoc 107, 199200.

11. H Schofield & S Mullainathan (2008) The psychology of nutrition messages. Adv Health Econ Health Serv Res 19, 145172.

12. E van Kleef , H van Trijp , F Paeps et al. (2008) Consumer preferences for front-of-pack calories labelling. Public Health Nutr 11, 203213.

14. AM Lando & J Labiner-Wolfe (2007) Helping consumers make more healthful food choices: consumer views on modifying food labels and providing point-of-purchase nutrition information at quick-service restaurants. J Nutr Educ Behav 39, 157163.

15. GI Feunekes , IA Gortemaker , AA Willems et al. (2008) Front-of-pack nutrition labelling: testing effectiveness of different nutrition labelling formats front-of-pack in four European countries. Appetite 50, 5770.

17. CA Roberto , PD Larsen , H Agnew et al. (2010) Evaluating the impact of menu labeling on food choices and intake. Am J Public Health 100, 312318.

18. WK Kim & J Kim (2009) A study on the consumer's perception of front-of-pack nutrition labeling. Nutr Res Pract 3, 300306.

19. B Kelly , C Hughes , K Chapman et al. (2009) Consumer testing of the acceptability and effectiveness of front-of-pack food labelling systems for the Australian grocery market. Health Promot Int 24, 120129.

21. A Möser , C Hoefkens , J Van Camp et al. (2010) Simplified nutrient labelling: consumers’ perceptions in Germany and Belgium. J Verbrauch Lebensm 5, 169180.

23. I Borgmeier & J Westenhoefer (2009) Impact of different food label formats on healthiness evaluation and food choice of consumers: a randomized-controlled study. BMC Public Health 9, 184.

25. JC Andrews , S Burton & J Kees (2012) Is simpler always better? Consumer evaluations of front-of-package nutrition symbols. J Public Policy Mark 30, 175190.

26. G Jones & M Richardson (2007) An objective examination of consumer perception of nutrition information based on healthiness ratings and eye movements. Public Health Nutr 10, 238244.

28. G Sacks , M Rayner & B Swinburn (2009) Impact of front-of-pack ‘traffic-light’ nutrition labelling on consumer food purchases in the UK. Health Promot Int 24, 344352.

29. P Chandon & B Wansink (2007) The biasing health halos of fast-food restaurant health claims: lower calorie estimates and higher side-dish consumption intentions. J Consum Res 34, 301314.

30. IH Steenhuis , W Kroeze , EL Vyth et al. (2010) The effects of using a nutrition logo on consumption and product evaluation of a sweet pastry. Appetite 55, 707709.

31. AC Drichoutis , P Lazaridis & RM Nayga (2009) Would consumers value food-away-from-home products with nutritional labels? Agribusiness 25, 550575.

32. S Bialkova & H van Trijp (2010) What determines consumer attention to nutrition labels? Food Qual Prefer 21, 10421051.

33. JE Lang , N Mercer , D Tran et al. (2000) Use of a supermarket shelf-labeling program to educate a predominately minority community about foods that promote heart health. J Am Diet Assoc 100, 804809.

34. RW Jeffery , PL Pirie , BS Rosenthal et al. (1982) Nutrition education in supermarkets: an unsuccessful attempt to influence knowledge and product sales. J Behav Med 5, 189200.

35. DL Katz , VY Njike , LQ Rhee et al. (2010) Performance characteristics of NuVal and the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI). Am J Clin Nutr 91, issue 4, 1102S1108S.

36. DL Katz , VY Njike , Z Faridi et al. (2009) The stratification of foods on the basis of overall nutritional quality: the overall nutritional quality index. Am J Health Promot 24, 133143.

37. JP Berning , HH Chouinard , KC Manning et al. (2010) Identifying consumer preferences for nutrition information on grocery store shelf labels. Food Policy 35, 429436.

38. LA Sutherland , LA Kaley & L Fischer (2010) Guiding stars: the effect of a nutrition navigation program on consumer purchases at the supermarket. Am J Clin Nutr 91, issue 4, 1090S1094S.

39. KG Grunert , JM Wills & L Fernandez-Celemin (2010) Nutrition knowledge, and use and understanding of nutrition information on food labels among consumers in the UK. Appetite 55, 177189.

41. L Young & B Swinburn (2002) Impact of the Pick the Tick food information programme on the salt content of food in New Zealand. Health Promot Int 17, 1319.

43. RH Eckel , S Borra , AH Lichtenstein et al. (2007) Understanding the complexity of trans fatty acid reduction in the American diet: American Heart Association Trans Fat Conference 2006: Report of the Trans Fat Conference Planning Group. Circulation 115, 22312246.

44. EL Vyth , IH Steenhuis , AJ Roodenburg et al. (2010) Front-of-pack nutrition label stimulates healthier product development: a quantitative analysis. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 7, 65.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
  • URL: /core/journals/public-health-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 299
Total number of PDF views: 1280 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 2335 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.