Really Read Nutrition Labels?10/24/11
MONDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- American consumers don't pay
as much attention to food product nutrition labels as they claim, a
new study finds.
Researchers asked 203 people to look at information about 64
different grocery products displayed on a computer screen. The
information included the well-known Nutrition Facts label, a
picture and list of ingredients, and a description of the product
that included price and quantity.
The participants' eye movements were tracked as they looked at
the information on the computer screens. This revealed that many
participants read only the top five lines on the Nutrition Facts
label and that their self-reported viewing of certain items on the
label was much higher than it actually was, the study said.
While 33 percent said they almost always look at calorie
content, 31 percent said the same about total fat content, 20
percent for trans-fat content, 24 percent for sugar content and 26
percent for serving size.
However, only 9 percent of the participants actually looked at
calorie count for nearly all the products in the study, and only
about 1 percent looked at total fat, trans-fat, sugar content and
The study also found that the participants looked at centrally
located Nutrition Facts labels more often and for longer periods of
time, compared to labels located on the right or left sides
(peripherally) of food items. Most Nutrition Facts labels on food
products sold in the United States are positioned peripherally, the
The study appears in the November issue of the
Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Taken together, the results indicate that self-reported
Nutrition Facts label use does not accurately represent use of
labels and their components in a simulated shopping exercise, the
University of Minnesota researchers wrote in a journal news
"In addition, location of labels and of specific label components relate to viewing," they said. "Consumers are more likely to view centrally located labels and nutrients nearer the label's top. Because knowing the amounts of key nutrients that foods contain can influence consumers to make healthier purchases, prominently positioning key nutrients, and labels themselves, could substantially impact public health."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains how to
read and understand food nutrition labels.
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