Free Literature Review About Do Food Labels Influence Eating Choices?
Dieticians and Nutritionists continuously emphasize healthy eating choices. The food that we eat has a direct effect to our health. Legislators and government leaders understand the importance of eating healthy foods that some local government officials are conducting significant initiatives to encourage and help the public make healthy eating choices. One of such initiatives is food labelling.
The significance of healthy eating choices
It is given that unhealthy foods adversely affect one’s health. Nevertheless, much worse than the individual impact of eating unhealthy foods are its economic and social effects (Golan, Kuchler, Mitchell, Greene & Jessup, 2001). The recent decades have experienced significant increase in number and popularity of fast food. These types of food have excessive calorie content resulting to diverse kinds of health problems. Obesity is one of these health problems that are widespread in the US. In fact, this health problem is now considered an epidemic). Obesity jeopardizes the quality and productivity of the individual, leading to poor quality of life and poor contribution to economic and social progress. Obesity also results to diverse health complications that need expensive treatment and medication which are partially shouldered by the tax payers. In order to fight this epidemic, the US government sought to mandate food labelling on all food outlets, including fast food restaurants (Blumenthal & Volpp, 2010).
Do Consumers Use Food Labels?
The Continuous Improvement of Food Labelling
The existence of variability in the propensity of consumers to use food labels and the burgeoning health problem related to consumption of unhealthy foods necessitates the need to improve food labelling (Story, Kaphingst, Robinson-O’Brien & Glanz, 2008). The earliest food labelling act can be traced back to the year 1990, through the enactment of the Nutrition Labelling and Education Act of 1990. The aim of this act is to mandate food producers, retailers, and sellers to label their products with their respective caloric content (Blumental & Volpp, 2010). Nevertheless, despite the existence and enforcement of this act, the problem with obesity and other food intake – related health problems continue to persist prompting the government to re-evaluate the food labelling process to make it more effective (Blumental & Volpp, 2010 and Golan, et. al., 2001).. There were different proposed improvements in food labelling, such as making them more informative and simple to understand by changing their presentation formats (Borgmeier & Westenhoefer, 2009). There are also reported instances that the food labels, whether intentional or not, tend to misguide the consumers. Such is the case presented by Ruiz (2009) in his article. Accordingly, Ruiz explains that while the food products were labelled low in calories – which would sound good to consumers who want low calorie intake – they however lack nutritional value. This observation clearly indicates that there is a need to improve the accuracy of food labels in presenting the nutritional value the food products.
Ways of improving food labelling
There are diverse ways to improve labelling. One of these ways was illustrated in the study conducted by Borgmeier & Westenhoefer (2009). Their study involves subjecting 420 consumers to randomized trials where they have to evaluate their level of understanding about the healthiness of food products based from their labels. There were four different formats for the food labels and one control. Results from their experiment showed one of the formats which they called, “multiple traffic light label” helped the consumers the healthiness of the food product the most. This manner of labelling involves the color-coding of calorie values to indicate whether they are in excess of the RDA recommendations or not. This finding was strengthened by the research done by Milich, Anderson & Mills (1976) which shows that visual factors influence the decision of consumers in using food labels. Accordingly, the study revealed the consumers with health problems such as obesity would rely on visual presentations in the food labels for their eating choices.
Blumenthal, BA, K., & Volpp, MD, PhD, K. G. (2010). Enhancing the Effectiveness of Food Labeling in Restaurants. Journal of the American Medical Association, 303(6). Retrieved March 24, 2015, from http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/303/6/553 .
Borgmeier, I., & Westenhoefer, J. (2009). Impact of different food label formats on healthiness evaluation and food choice of consumers: A randomized-controlled study. BMC Public Health, 9, 184. Retrieved March 25, 2015, from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/9/184.
Davis-Chervin, D. Rogers, T. & Clark, M (1985). Influencing food selection with point-of-choice nutrition information Journal of Nutrition Education, 17(1), 18–22
Elbel, B. Kersh, R. Brescoll, V. L. & Dixon, L. B. (2009). Calorie Labeling And Food Choices: A First Look At The Effects On Low-Income People In New York City. Health Affairs, 28(6), w1110-w1121
Golan, E., Kuchler, F., Mitchell, L., Greene, C., & Jessup, A. (2001). Economics of Food Labeling. Economics of Food Labeling, 24(2), 117-184. Retrieved March 25, 2015, from http://www.springerlink.com/.
Harnack, L. J. & French, S. A. (2008). Effect of point-of-purchase calorie labeling on restaurant and cafeteria food choices: A review of the literature. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5 (51)
Milich R, Anderson J, Mills M. (1976). Effects of visual presentation of caloric values on food buying by normal and obese persons. Percept Mot Skills. 42(1), 155-62
Ruiz, R. (2009, September 17). Smart Choices Foods: Dumb As They Look? Forbes Magazine. Retrieved March 25, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/2009/09/17/smart-choices-labels-lifestyle-health-foods.html
Satia, J. A., Galanko, J. A., & Neuhouser, M. L. (2005). The use of food nutrition labels is associated with demographic, behavioural, and psychosocial factors and dietary intake among African Americans in North Carolina. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(3), 392-402. Retrieved March 25, 2015, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822304018486
Story, M. Kaphingst, K. M. Robinson-O’Brien, R. & Glanz, K. (2008). Creating Healthy Food and Eating Environments: Policy and Environmental Approaches. Annual Review Public Health, 29, 253-272.