GREATER LONDON, England — Colour-coded nutrition labels and warnings found on the front of some food packaging have been impactful, reveals a new study.
A study has integrated findings from 134 studies, and it reveals that these labels do indeed appear to encourage more healthful purchases.
Jing Song of Queen Mary University of London, UK, and colleagues conducted the study.
Some countries have introduced mandatory front-of-package labeling in the hope of improving people’s diets and reducing the burden of diseases associated with poor diets.
These labels may employ color coding to indicate nutrition, or they may warn consumers about unhealthful features of products. However, studies on the impact of such labeling have produced mixed evidence.
To help clarify the impact of front-of-package nutrition labels, Song and colleagues analyzed data from 134 peer-reviewed studies published between January 1990 and May 2021.
They applied an analytical method known as network meta-analysis in order to integrate the results of the studies and evaluate the impact of four different labeling systems — two that use color-coding and two that use warnings.
“Despite the variation in label types, labeling formats, position, study population, study design and experimental settings across studies, our comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis support the call for color front-of-pack nutrition labels,” said Song.
This meta-analysis showed that all four labeling systems appeared to be advantageous in encouraging consumers to purchase more nutritionally beneficial products.
“It all has positive effects on guiding consumers in making more healthful food choices. Food manufacturers must now get on board in efforts to improve the nation’s health by committing to putting front-of-pack labels across all their food and drink products and on menus,” said Song.
Evaluation of specific nutritional qualities found that labeling nudged consumers towards foods and drinks with lower levels of energy, sodium, fat, and saturated fat.
The analysis of the study also highlighted psychological mechanisms that may underlie the different strengths of different labels due to their impact on consumers’ understanding of nutrition information and resulting changes in attitudes towards unhealthful or healthful foods.
Color labels appeared to be more beneficial in promoting more healthful purchases, and warning labels were more effective in discouraging unhealthy purchases.
These findings could help guide and refine policies on front-of-package labeling to improve public health.
Meanwhile, future research could build on this study by addressing related concepts, such as the impact of labeling on the reformulation of products by the food industry or more long-term benefits of labeling on purchasing behavior.
“This study found that color labels and warning labels are all able to direct consumers towards more healthful purchase behavior,” said the researchers.
“Color-coded labels can promote the purchase of more healthful products while warning labels discourage the purchase of less healthful products.”
(With inputs from ANI)
Edited by Ojaswin Kathuria and Anindita Ghosh
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