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ORIGINAL RESEARCH

Evaluation of Consumer Understanding of Different Front-of-Package Nutrition Labels, 2010–2011

The figure contains 4 colored icons representing 4 front-of-package labels:

  1. Multiple traffic lights (MTL) label: A calorie-per-serving label with a traffic light (TL) symbol with the text High, Med, or Low superimposed on the red, yellow, and green lights, respectively, indicating that the product contained high, medium, or low amounts of 3 nutrients whose consumption should be limited: saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.
  2. MTL plus a daily caloric intake (MTL+caloric intake): Same as MTL but with the addition of male and female icons accompanied by the words “2000 calories per day.”
  3. Traffic light with specific nutrients to limit (TL+SNL): A calories-per-serving label plus the TL symbol with the text High, Med, or Low superimposed on the red, yellow, and green lights, respectively, indicating that the product contained high, medium, or low amounts of nutrients whose consumption should be limited on the basis of nutrients of concern in that particular food category. Some food types contained more than 1 nutrient to limit, in which case the label included a TL for each of those nutrients. We consulted 2 nutrition experts to determine nutrients to limit for each food category and used their suggestions in the test label.
  4. Choices logo (Choices): The Choices symbol in use worldwide consists of a check mark and the words “Healthy Choice.” The symbol indicates that products contain lower levels of sodium, sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and calories and greater amounts of dietary fiber relative to similar products in the same category (5).

Figure 1. Front-of-package food label symbols tested in evaluation of consumer understanding of different front-of-package nutrition labels.

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The public service advertisement (PSA) included the words “become label conscious” along with instructions on how to interpret the labeling system the participant was about to see. Participants in the control group viewed a PSA nearly identical to those viewed by the other 4 groups but without label interpretation instructions.

Figure 2. Sample public service advertisement explaining interpretation of front-of-package labeling system.

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The opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions.

 
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