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Misunderstanding of Front-Of-Package Nutrition Information on US Food Products.

  • Author(s): Miller, Lisa M Soederberg
  • Cassady, Diana L
  • Beckett, Laurel A
  • Applegate, Elizabeth A
  • Wilson, Machelle D
  • Gibson, Tanja N
  • Ellwood, Kathleen
  • et al.

Front-of-package nutrition symbols (FOPs) are presumably readily noticeable and require minimal prior nutrition knowledge to use. Although there is evidence to support this notion, few studies have focused on Facts Up Front type symbols which are used in the US. Participants with varying levels of prior knowledge were asked to view two products and decide which was more healthful. FOPs on packages were manipulated so that one product was more healthful, allowing us to assess accuracy. Attention to nutrition information was assessed via eye tracking to determine what if any FOP information was used to make their decisions. Results showed that accuracy was below chance on half of the comparisons despite consulting FOPs. Negative correlations between attention to calories, fat, and sodium and accuracy indicated that consumers over-relied on these nutrients. Although relatively little attention was allocated to fiber and sugar, associations between attention and accuracy were positive. Attention to vitamin D showed no association to accuracy, indicating confusion surrounding what constitutes a meaningful change across products. Greater nutrition knowledge was associated with greater accuracy, even when less attention was paid. Individuals, particularly those with less knowledge, are misled by calorie, sodium, and fat information on FOPs.

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