Impact of different front-of-pack nutrition labels on consumer’s preference and ability to identify amount of total fat: a randomised controlled study of women aged 45-60
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background – Front-of-pack nutrition labels are potential tools to help consumers make healthier food choices; however, before determining its effect on purchasing behaviour, factors involved in its use must be explored. This study sought to explore which formats were the most preferred and which enabled the most accurate estimation of fat in a sample of adult women. Methods – Among 17 adult women aged 45-60 years recruited from an opportunistic sample, preference was measured for three front-of-pack labels: The ‘Reference Intake’, ‘Coloured Reference Intake’ and ‘Colour wheel’ formats. Using a randomised controlled design subjects were exposed to either: Reference Intake or Coloured Reference Intake label and asked to identify whether a food product was either high, medium or low in fat. Acceptability was also explored using qualitative design. Results – Three label formats were ranked out of five for preference, consisting of ‘liking’ and ‘ease of use’. The two coloured front-of-pack label formats was significantly more liked than the Reference Intake format. Out of the two coloured formats there was no statistically significant favourite. Participants randomised to the RI group had the least correct answers for determining the amount of fat per product (4.5 ± 0.51) compared to the RI Colour group (2.7 ± 1.23) (p=0.004). Participants in the study population described how they used food labels to make healthier food choices by avoiding red labels compared to being influenced by green labels. Portion size was an area described by the population sample as being an issue with the user-friendliness of food labels, with a calling for more realistic portion sizes to be included on front-of-pack nutrition labelling. Conclusion ¬– Women aged 45-60 prefer front-of-pack labels which contain colour coding for nutrients irrespective of the format and are better able to identify amounts of fats in foods using colour coding. This population group are more influenced by red labels than green labels when making food choices.
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