Changes in food label modifications may help consumers make healthful decisions

Published on January 23, 2013 at 5:52 AM · No Comments

The Nutrition Facts label was introduced 20 years ago and provides consumers with important information, including: the serving size, the number of servings in the package, the number of calories per serving, and the amount of nutrients for each serving of a packaged food. However, research has shown that consumers often miscalculate the number of calories and the nutritional content of products that have two or more servings per container but are usually consumed in a single eating occasion.

Two nutrition labeling changes could have the potential to make nutritional content information easier to understand: 1) dual-column information that details single serving and total package nutrition information, and 2) declaring nutritional information for the entire container.

Amy M. Lando, MPP, and Serena C. Lo, PhD, of the Food and Drug Administration's, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, College Park, MD, conducted an online study with more than 9,000 participants to measure consumers' accuracy in using modified versions of the Nutrition Facts label and to assess their perceptions of how useful, trustworthy, and helpful the label was.

Says Ms. Lando, "FDA commissioned this experimental study to look at whether different ways of presenting the serving size and nutrition information on the Nutrition Facts label might help consumers. In particular we were interested in studying products that have two servings per container but that are customarily consumed in a single eating occasion."

Study participants evaluated nine modified Nutrition Facts labels and the current label format for four fictitious products (two frozen meals and two grab-and-go bags of chips). The labels were classified into three groups. The first group of labels used a single-column format to display information for products with two servings per container; the second group used versions of a dual-column format to display information for products with two servings per container; and the third group used single-column formats that listed the contents of the product as a single, large serving.

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