Food Labels Have Effects on Consumption and Product Formulation

Food Labels Have Effects on Consumption and Product Formulation

BOSTON (Dec. 17, 2018)—Over the past two decades, labels such as the U.S. Nutrition Facts Panel on packaged foods, calorie counts on national restaurant menus, front-of-pack labels encouraging healthier eating, and “low-sodium” or “fat-free” identifiers have been developed in order to promote healthier choices. But do they work?

A new Food-PRICE systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studies, led by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and published online today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, assessed the effectiveness of multiple types of food labels. The researchers found that these approaches can impact some targets, but not others, for both consumer and industry behavior. The 60 interventional studies reviewed were comprised of two million unique observations, including consumer reported dietary intakes, purchases, and sales receipts, and were published between 1990 and 2014.

“Many old and new food policies focus on labeling, 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,” said senior and corresponding author Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School. “Our findings provide new evidence on what might work, and what might not, when implementing food labeling.”

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