Nutrition labels improve understanding

February 2, 2017 by Suzi Phillips

Nutrition labels have a minor impact on New Zealand consumer healthy food choices, according to the latest study from the University of Auckland.

The study involved 1357 New Zealander shoppers split into three groups of about 400 each and randomly allocated to one of three labels: Traffic Light labels, Health Star Rating labels, or Nutrition Information Panels.

Participants used their smartphones to scan food products in supermarkets to 'see' the allocated .

The study concluded that labels which interpret healthiness such as Traffic Light labels and Health Star Rating labels, had little impact on food purchases among study participants, compared with the traditional Nutrition Information Panel label.

Those using the interpretive labels found them significantly more useful and easier to understand than those using the Nutrition Information Panels.

"The study also found that frequent users of the two interpretive labels had significantly healthier food purchases than frequent users of Nutrition Information Panels," says lead author, Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu from the University's National Institute for Health Innovation.

"The trial results suggest that interpretive front of pack labels do not significantly influence food choices at a population level, although they appear useful for a subgroup of people who use labels a lot" she says.

"Our findings, together with the known effects of these labels on food industry product improvement, support including interpretive front-of-pack labels like the Health Star Rating labels in strategies to improve diets."

"Comprehensive nutrition policies will however be essential to achieve meaningful improvements in population diets," she says. "These include World Health Organization-backed strategies such as restricting marketing of unhealthy food to kids, taxes on sugary drinks, and healthy food policies in schools and hospitals."

She says there is evidence from overseas that mandatory or widely implemented front-of-pack labelling of foods has an effect on enhanced efforts by the food industry to improve the nutrient profile of products.

"Front-of-pack labels are designed to support healthier consumer but the main mechanism through which these labels work to affect diets may be by creating an incentive for the to create better quality products," she says.

The University of Auckland study was a world-first randomised controlled trial of nutrition labelling in a real-world setting, where participants could check randomly assigned labels on packaged products in any store across the entire country.

The trial delivered Traffic Light labels, Health Star Rating , or Nutrition Information Panels via a smartphone app, developed specifically for the study. The research was funded as part of a programme grant from the Health Research Council NZ.

The paper was published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Explore further: Smartphones deliver nutrition labelling study

Related Stories

Smartphones deliver nutrition labelling study

November 5, 2015
An exciting five-week study on nutrition labelling using smartphones is underway at the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland.

New Health Star Rating nutrition label may not be best format

June 30, 2014
University of Otago researchers are questioning the likely effectiveness of new Health Star Rating nutrition labels that may soon be seen on the front of food packages in New Zealand and Australia.

How nutrition information leads you to buy more

January 14, 2016
Have you ever been to the supermarket and chosen foods based on nutrition labels? If so, be cautious, because the nutrition values you see on labels can substantially differ based on the recommended serving size, with undesired ...

Examining food labelling across Europe

June 11, 2013
The FLABEL project ('Food Labelling to Advance to Better Education for Life') was the first EU-funded research programme to examine nutrition labelling when it was launched three years ago. Now having ended, has it made an ...

Moms more likely than dads to check for sugars on nutrition labels

October 27, 2014
Mothers are more likely than fathers to read nutrition labels when considering food and drink purchases, according to the latest C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

FDA to revise nutrition facts label

January 23, 2014
Those nutrition labels on the back of food packages may soon become easier to read.

Recommended for you

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

Exercising and eating well are greater contributors to health than standing at work

November 21, 2017
By now you've probably heard the edict from the health community: Sitting is the new smoking. Perhaps you've converted to a standing desk, or maybe you have a reminder on your phone to get up once an hour and walk around ...

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.