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LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 71-72

Food Label Reading Knowledge and Understanding Among Consumers


1 DAVV-Sugnidevi College, Barod Hospital, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India
2 Department of Dietetics, Barod Hospital, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India

Date of Web Publication4-Jul-2017

Correspondence Address:
Raksha Goyal
Clinical and Sports Nutritionist, Prosanatus, 62, Shri Nagar Ext, Khajrana Main Road, Opposite Main Road, Indore, Madhya Pradesh
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijnpnd.ijnpnd_11_17

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How to cite this article:
Deshmukh N, Goyal R. Food Label Reading Knowledge and Understanding Among Consumers. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2017;7:71-2

How to cite this URL:
Deshmukh N, Goyal R. Food Label Reading Knowledge and Understanding Among Consumers. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis [serial online] 2017 [cited 2017 Oct 20];7:71-2. Available from: http://www.ijnpnd.com/text.asp?2017/7/3/71/209421

Sir,

Nutrition information on food labels is regarded as a major means for encouraging consumers to make healthier choices when shopping for food.[1],[2] But, do consumers notice such labels, do they read and understand them, and do they make use of them in their purchasing decisions? A range of consumer research studies[3],[4],[5] have tried to shed light on these questions.

Nutrition information on food labels is an important source of nutrition information but is typically underutilized by consumers. Nutrition information on food labels could be a cost-effective method of communicating nutrition information to consumers because the information appears at the point of sale for most packaged foods.[6] Although consumers value nutrition when deciding which foods to buy,[7] nutrition information on food labels is complex and does not always live up to its potential to communicate effectively.[8],[9],[10],[11]

To the same context, a survey was conducted to find out whether consumers, in Indore city, have the knowledge of nutrition information on food package labels when shopping and to know what extent they use that knowledge to choose foods to buy. A total of 838 individuals participated in the survey. Data were collected through a pretested structured questionnaire developed based on questionnaires used reliably in previous studies. The results may provide the information on consumers’ awareness, knowledge, and the use of food labels, as well as their ability to interpret nutrition information appropriately and make food choices accordingly. These results are expected to help in explaining the reasons that contribute to food choices made by consumers and in coming up with recommendations that will guarantee that consumers are well informed on the nutrition information and can use it whenever they want. The findings of this survey could form the basis for a mass population approach for future information and education strategies for health professionals and other stakeholders interested in consumer awareness activities.

The findings of our survey indicate that the majority (71.9%) of the participants claimed that they do not use a shopping list, and more than half of them (61.8%) indicated that their choice of specific foods was not based on nutrition information. The same trend has been observed with respect to the use of nutrition information when shopping, where only 9.3% claimed that they utilize that knowledge when shopping.

While consumers are checking labels, they do not necessarily understand what they are reading. Half of the world’s consumers said they only “partly” understand the nutritional labels on food, with 60% of Asia Pacific’s citizens leading the world in this lack of understanding, followed by Europeans (50%) and Latin Americans (45%). In our study, 57.7% consumers “Don’t understand” the food labels, whereas 39.7% “Partially understand” the food labels information.

Half of the consumers (54.9%) check the sign of vegetarian and nonvegetarian, whereas 40% consumers check the manufacturing and expiry date on food labels before purchasing. It was found that 52.7% consumers do not check the purity markers such as Indian Standards Institute (ISI), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FASSI), Fruit Products Order (FPO), and so on while purchasing the food products. In addition, 52.5% consumers do not read the ingredients on food products, while 63.2% consumers do not measure the serving choice of food products while preparation the food. Quite often, 64.4% consumers do not read the instruction of use or the instruction of cooking while storing the food.

Nutrition labels typically contain information on calories, serving size, and amounts and/or the daily values of several macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals (e.g., fats, carbohydrate, and calcium).

In our survey, 52.5% consumers do not read the ingredients list written in food label. The US Dietary Guidelines 2010 states that: “The ingredients list can be used to find out whether a food or beverage contains synthetic trans fats, solid fats, added sugars, whole grains, and refined grains.” Ingredient lists contain important nutrition information that can contribute to the consumer’s assessment of a food’s healthfulness.

The ultimate purpose of nutrition labeling information is to assist consumers in identifying and choosing foods that contribute to a healthy diet. Information does not lead to behavior change, unless it can overcome counteracting psychosocial, behavioral, and environmental barriers. The underlying problems include the lack of adequate nutrition education and knowledge, and poor communication to end users.

In conclusion, we found low use and understanding of nutrition labels among consumers in Indore city. Consumers were not conversant with the numeracy, terminology, and language on the current nutrition panel, pointing toward the need for basic nutrition education and user-friendly label formats. For the future implication, a nutrition labeling education strategy should, therefore, be integrated into broader behavior change strategies related to nutrition education and health to assist consumers in bridging the gap between current dietary practices and dietary recommendations. A mass awareness campaign is required (with the support of government, Non-governmental organization (NGO), dieticians, media, etc.) to educate consumers regarding the every aspect of food label reading and its benefits on preventing lifestyle-related diseases.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
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