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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)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 22 March 2012

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.

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