GREATER LONDON, England – Color-coded nutrition labels and warnings on the front of some food packaging have proven their worth, new study shows.
One study integrated findings from 134 studies and shows that these labels actually encourage healthier purchases.
The results of the study were published in the journal “PLOS Medicine”.
Jing Song of Queen Mary University of London, UK, and colleagues conducted the study.
Some countries have introduced mandatory packaging front labeling in hopes of improving people’s diets and reducing the burden of disease related to poor diets.
These labels can use color coding to indicate nutritional value, or they can warn consumers about unhealthy properties of products. However, studies of the effects of such labeling have produced mixed evidence.
To clarify the effects of nutrition labels on the front of the package, Song and colleagues analyzed data from 134 peer-reviewed studies published between January 1990 and May 2021.
They used an analytical method known as network meta-analysis to integrate the results of the studies and assess the effects of four different labeling systems – two color-coded and two warning labels.
“Despite the different label types, label formats, position, study population, study design and experimental settings between studies, our extensive systematic review and meta-analysis support the requirement for colored nutrition labels on the face,” said Song.
This meta-analysis showed that all four labeling systems appeared to be beneficial in encouraging consumers to purchase more nutritional products.
“All of this has a positive impact on helping consumers choose healthier foods. Food manufacturers must now join in efforts to improve the country’s health by pledging to put labels on the front of all their food and drink, as well as on menus, “Song said.
The assessment of specific nutritional properties found that labeling pushed consumers towards foods and beverages that were lower in energy, sodium, fat and saturated fat.
The analysis of the study also revealed psychological mechanisms that, due to their influence on consumers’ understanding of nutritional information and the resulting changes in attitudes towards unhealthy or healthy foods, may underlie the different strengths of various labels.
Colored labels appeared to be more beneficial in promoting healthier purchases, and warning labels were more effective in deterring unhealthy purchases.
These results could help guide and refine front-of-pack labeling guidelines to improve public health.
In the meantime, future research could build on this study by looking at related concepts, such as: B. the influence of labeling on the reformulation of products by the food industry or the longer-term advantages of labeling on purchasing behavior.
“This study found that color labels and warnings can guide consumers towards healthier shopping habits,” said the researchers.
“Color-coded labels can encourage people to buy healthier products, while warning labels can discourage people from buying less healthy products.”
(With inputs from ANI)
Edited by Ojaswin Kathuria and Anindita Ghosh