According to a recent study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, food labels can lead to changes in consumers' intake of nutrients, calories, and fat. Nowadays, in order to promote healthier eating, a lot of packaged foods available in the market are coming with various labels. A lot of products have "low-sodium" or "fat-free" identifiers that encourage healthier food choices. The particular research focussed on whether these labels actually work or not. The study led by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, assessed the effectiveness of multiple types of food labels.
The meta-analysis of 60 interventional studies comprised two million unique observations, including consumer reported dietary intakes, purchases, and sales receipts. "Many old and new food policies focus on labelling, whether on food packages or restaurant menus. Remarkably, the effectiveness of these labels, whether for changing consumers' choices or industry product formulations, has not been clear. Our findings provide new evidence on what might work, and what might not when implementing food labelling," said Dariush Mozaffarian, one of the authors of the study.
As per the findings of the study, consumers' intake of calories was reduced by 6.6 percent due to labelling; whereas, total fat was reduced by 10.6 percent and other unhealthy food options by 13 percent. The researchers also found that the consumers' vegetable consumption was also significantly increased by 13.5 percent. After analysing industry responses, the researchers found that both trans-fat and sodium in packaged foods was reduced by 64.3 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively. In contrast, labelling did not show significant effects for industry formulations of total calories, saturated fat, dietary fibre, other healthy components (like protein and unsaturated fat), or other unhealthy components (like total fat, sugar, and dietary cholesterol).
Other characteristics like label placement and label types were also evaluated by the researchers and no significant effects were found on the menu, packaging, nutrient content and other point of purchase.
The findings of the study concluded that instead of specific types of labels, general absence or presence of information could be more relevant to consumers and industry.