International Food Information Council Foundation Research Offers Insights on Consumers’ Use and Understanding of Nutrition Food Labels

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As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and others consider various food labeling formats, recent research by the International Food Information Council Foundation (Foundation) provides valuable insight into how consumers perceive and use the Nutrition Facts panel (NFP) found on food and beverage labels.

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We believe that addressing consumers’ need for usable information on the Nutrition Facts panel will accelerate efforts to improve the diet and health of Americans.

As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and others consider various food labeling formats, recent research by the International Food Information Council Foundation (Foundation) provides valuable insight into how consumers perceive and use the Nutrition Facts panel (NFP) found on food and beverage labels.

Based on the overall findings from its three-phase research project, the Foundation learned that consumers generally have a positive perception of the food label, but also found that there are several ways the label potentially could be enhanced to help people understand the information provided and use it even more effectively:

  • Mentioning a government body, like the FDA, in a highly used area of the NFP, such as a header in the main body of the NFP, increases consumer trust in the information provided, particularly serving size;
  • Moving the location of calories into the main body of the NFP appears to encourage greater use of this information;
  • Adding the percent Daily Value (%DV) of calories helps consumers consider a product’s calorie contribution within the context of their daily diet; and
  • Moving the information in the current footnote into an easily referenced column in the main body of the NFP greatly increases consumers’ ability to evaluate a product.

“We believe that addressing consumers’ need for usable information on the Nutrition Facts panel will accelerate efforts to improve the diet and health of Americans,” said International Food Information Council Foundation President and CEO David B. Schmidt.
With the FDA looking into NFP changes and studying how these changes may affect consumers’ understanding of the information provided on the label, the Foundation has shared this research to assist the Agency with its work. The Foundation’s research highlights the critical need for conducting additional consumer research to determine if the benefits of certain enhancements to the NFP outweigh any confusion they may generate. Also, any changes must be accompanied by appropriate consumer education to ensure that people know how to use the information provided.

Key findings from the three Foundation research studies, including visuals of the consumer-suggested label enhancements tested: (1) Food Label Consumer Research: Qualitative Phases Summary Report (2008), 2) Food Label Consumer Research Project: Quantitative Phase III Summary Report (2009), and 3) Food & Health Survey (2009), are available on http://www.foodinsight.org.

For the full research reports and any other questions, please contact the Foundation media team at 202-296-6540, Mittenthal(at)ific(dot)org or Matthews(at)ific(dot)org

The International Food Information Council Foundation’s mission is to effectively communicate science-based information on health, nutrition, and food safety for the public good. Additional information on the Foundation is available on the “About” section of our Web site. For interviews with experts or other questions please, call (202)296-6540.

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