- A diet high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat, and low in whole grains, is a leading risk factor for NCDs.
- A recent systematic review suggests that color-coded food labels and warnings on food packaging correlate with healthier food choices.
- The researchers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States believe their study supports mandatory face label guidelines.
A diet high in nutrient-poor foods increases your risk of developing noncommunicable diseases that are common for
Color-coded labels and warning labels are used on the front of food packaging around the world. They aim to encourage people to eat healthier diets to reduce the burden of diet-related illness and death.
Before this study, it wasn’t clear whether these labels were effective in influencing consumer purchases.
Jing Song, Mhairi Brown and colleagues from Queen Mary University of London in the UK examined the evidence with researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia, the University of Calgary in Canada, the University of Auckland in New Zealand and Decide to Live In to save the United States.
Your results will appear in PLOS medicine.
To quantify the effects of labeling on the front of the package, the authors reviewed data from 134 peer-reviewed studies published between January 1990 and May 2021.
They used that
This approach helped the team evaluate the impact of the traffic light labeling system (TLS) and the Nutri-Score (NS) color labeling system. Researchers also examined the effects of the Nutrient Alert (NW) and Health Alert (HW) labeling systems.
The authors note:
“The primary results of our systematic review were measures on changes in consumer buying and consumption patterns that include the likelihood of choosing less healthy or healthier products, self-reported purchase intentions, the general health of the products purchased and energy, and nutrient […] Content of the purchased / consumed products. “
The study’s authors report: “We found that TLS, NW and HW are associated with an increased likelihood of choosing healthier products.”
NS and warning labels appeared to help reduce the likelihood of consumers buying “less healthy products”.
Song and other researchers believe that TLS, NW, and HW labels influenced buying behavior by clarifying nutritional information. In this way, they encouraged “positive attitudes toward healthy foods” and negative attitudes toward less nutritious products.
Color-coded labels had a more significant effect in influencing shoppers to buy healthy foods. Conversely, warning labels seem to act as a stronger deterrent to unhealthy purchases.
According to the authors, their study supports “mandatory guidelines on labeling on the front of packaging to guide consumer choice and encourage the food industry to reformulate their products”.
Song and colleagues mention several limitations to their study. For example, they acknowledge the differences in the type, format and position of labels, as well as the differences in study populations and experimental attitudes in the studies reviewed.
Most of the research they evaluated was laboratory studies, so real-world data on food consumption were limited. The team also admitted that there was a “lack of long-term impact assessments”.
Medical news today asked Dr. Mir Ali, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of the MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, asked whether food labels really affect buying behavior.
The surgeon agreed with the study results that color coding and warnings make a difference:
“I think if people are more aware of the health benefits or disadvantages of a particular food or product, then it is [labels] can steer them more towards a healthy product. “
Dr. However, Ali believed that the current labeling system in the US did not provide clear, accurate nutritional information.
For example, some food manufacturers list chemical names for sugar, which might lead some people to believe that a product is sugar-free.
Dr. Ali added:
“I think people get the impression that if something is labeled ‘healthy’ it has to be healthy or organic or free range […] – some of the buzzwords. So often they just look at it and say, ‘OK, I eat healthy.’ They do not pay attention to the calorie content or the actual composition of their food, whether it is high in fat or cholesterol or other things that may not be in their best interests. “
As a bariatric surgeon and weight loss specialist, Dr. Ali encourages patients to eat properly after surgery.
He suggests that labels should contain recommended usage limits: “[Labels could say] this food falls into this category and you should only consume this amount per day or limit this amount. Or this food is in the ‘green zone’, where you don’t have to limit the amount of food you eat [of] that in one day. “
Dr. However, Ali admits that people mostly buy what they want, healthy or not.
He went on to say: “There is a lot of controversy [about] What is proper nutrition? […]. There are many different opinions, especially among children. “
Noel Anderson, Ph.D., is president of the Institute of Food Technologists, a scientific community for food professionals.
In a podcast with FoodNavigator-USA, he comments that many buyers lack clarity about healthy eating:
“I don’t think there’s a deep understanding of what healthy eating really means to the ordinary consumer. Research has clearly shown that consumers are more conscious and claiming that they want to eat healthily, but for too many of them, healthy eating just means fresh, not bad. That’s a pretty narrow definition. “
Dr. Anderson continued, “Besides, if you look at their behavior, […] Enjoyment drives purchases […]. “
Dr. Ali believes that making labels clearer is “a good step in the right direction”. Ultimately, however, individuals should take responsibility for self-education and food choices for health reasons.