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Monday 26th August 2019

Nutrition labels need to be more prominent

25th October 2011

People do not pay enough attention to nutrition labels, according to a recent US study.


The researchers monitored people's eye movements as they scanned food packages, without telling the people that they were studying nutrition.

Researchers Dan Graham and Robert Jeffrey, from the division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, wrote that people seemed to have a finite attention span when it came to nutritional information.

Very few people looked at nutrition facts, although a fair amount of those study subjects reported that they did so.

One third of the study subjects reported that they looked at calorie counts when they shopped, but only 9% of the study subjects actually did so.

Only about 1% looked at saturated fat content.

A Food and Drink Federation spokeswoman said that her organisation was aware that consumers often did not read labels, and supported the provision of clear, simple front of pack nutrition labelling.

She said that, however, it was unclear how companies could apply the finding to the UK shopping experience, since the information on US food labels was formatted differently.

For the study, the researchers recruited 203 people and had them sit in front of a computer screen pretending to shop.

Using actual packaging from 64 different products, with labels in various locations, the researchers tracked the eye movements of the subjects.

One third of the subjects saw all the labels on the left, one third saw all of them on the right, and one third saw all of them in the middle.

The readability of labels placed directly in the centre of a product's packaging seemed to be the highest, and 61% of the study subjects read labels when they were placed this way.

By contrast, information placed to the left or to the right seemed to get skipped over, with 34% and 37% of the study subjects reading information for either side respectively.

The top of a product also seemed to be a readable location for a label.

People also almost always stopped reading after seeing five lines of text.

The researchers wrote that prominently positioning the labels and prominently positioning key nutrients on the labels could make a real difference to public health.

They wrote that very few people looked at every component on any single label.


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