Can Changes in Nutrition Labeling Help Consumers Make Better Food Choices?

Single-larger-portion-size and dual-column nutrition labeling may help consumers make healthful decisions, reports Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Philadelphia, PA, January 23, 2013 – The Nutrition Facts label was introduced 20 years ago and provides consumers with important information, including: the serving size, the number of servings in the package, the number of calories per serving, and the amount of nutrients for each serving of a packaged food. However, research has shown that consumers often miscalculate the number of calories and the nutritional content of products that have two or more servings per container but are usually consumed in a single eating occasion.

Two nutrition labeling changes could have the potential to make nutritional content information easier to understand: 1) dual-column information that details single serving and total package nutrition information, and 2) declaring nutritional information for the entire container.

Amy M. Lando, MPP, and Serena C. Lo, PhD, of the Food and Drug Administration’s, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, College Park, MD, conducted an online study with more than 9,000 participants to measure consumers’ accuracy in using modified versions of the Nutrition Facts label and to assess their perceptions of how useful, trustworthy, and helpful the label was.

Says Ms. Lando, “FDA commissioned this experimental study to look at whether different ways of presenting the serving size and nutrition information on the Nutrition Facts label might help consumers. In particular we were interested in studying products that have two servings per container but that are customarily consumed in a single eating occasion.”

Study participants evaluated nine modified Nutrition Facts labels and the current label format for four fictitious products (two frozen meals and two grab-and-go bags of chips). The labels were classified into three groups. The first group of labels used a single-column format to display information for products with two servings per container; the second group used versions of a dual-column format to display information for products with two servings per container; and the third group used single-column formats that listed the contents of the product as a single, large serving.

The study team also tested whether changes in formatting, such as enlarging the font size for the declaration of “Calories,” removing the information on the number of calories from fat, or changing the wording for the serving size declaration, would be helpful to consumers in determining the calories and other nutrient information for a single serving and for the entire package.

Study investigators determined that participants could more accurately assess the number of calories or amount of fat or other nutrients per serving and in the entire package when a single, large serving per container format or a dual-column format was used.

“This research is just one step in understanding how some potential food label modifications might help consumers make better decisions. Ideally, we would like to see how these labels perform in a more realistic setting, such as in a grocery store, with actual packaged foods as opposed to large labels on a computer screen,” concludes Dr. Lo. The Nutrition Facts label is only one tool that can help consumers make informed food choices and maintain healthy dietary practices, but it is a valuable tool so it’s important to continue exploring ways to support effective use of the label for these purposes.”

In an audio podcast accompanying the study, Ms. Lando and Dr. Lo discuss their study methodology, the labeling they tested, and study results and implications.

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Notes for editors
“Single-Larger-Portion-Size and Dual-Column Nutrition Labeling May Help Consumers Make More Healthful Food Choices,” Amy M. Lando, MPP, Serena C. Lo, PhD. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 113, Issue 2 (February 2013). DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.06.012, published by Elsevier.

Full text of this article is available to credentialed journalists upon request. Contact Eileen Leahy at +1-732-238-3628 or andjrnlmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. Journalists wishing to set up interviews with the authors may contact Sebastian Cianci at +1-240-402-2291 or sebastian.cianci@fda.hhs.gov.

An audio podcast featuring Amy M. Lando and Serena C. Lo and information specifically for journalists are located at http://andjrnl.org/content/mediapodcast. Excerpts from the audio may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The official journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org), the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.andjrnl.org) is the premier source for the practice and science of food, nutrition and dietetics. The monthly, peer-reviewed journal presents original articles prepared by scholars and practitioners and is the most widely read professional publication in the field. The Journal focuses on advancing professional knowledge across the range of research and practice issues such as: nutritional science, medical nutrition therapy, public health nutrition, food science and biotechnology, food service systems, leadership and management and dietetics education.

The Journal has a current Impact Factor of 3.586 in the Nutrition and Dietetics category of the Journal Citation Reports®, published by Thomson Reuters. It was previously published as the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

About the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org), formerly the American Dietetic Association, is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence,and ClinicalKey—and publishes over 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world leading provider of professional information solutions in the Science, Medical, Legal and Risk and Business sectors, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Media contacts
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1-732-238-3628
andjrnlmedia@elsevier.com

Ryan O’Malley
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
+1- 800-877-1600, ext. 4769
media@eatright.org