Health claims on a food label link a nutrient with the risk of disease but there must be a defined amount linked to the health-related condition. Consumers are often confused by health claims on food labels, according to a review of research in anticipation of a new European regulation on health and nutrition claims. As food label information is essential to combat obesity and other diet-related diseases, the NUTRILAB project investigated how consumer understanding varies across populations in the Black Sea region. Sharing this data, the team formulated new approaches to food labelling to optimise consumer understanding. Capacity building was a key component – the researchers identified and integrated different overlapping interdisciplinary concepts. An exchange system involving almost 200 young and senior researchers in the consortium of 12 partners from five Black Sea countries optimised goal achievement. Input from workshops on results’ analysis, questionnaires, summary reports of partner experience and narrative reports from the partners contributed to the identification of how nutritional labelling in the EU and elsewhere can influence the health and welfare of the population. To establish open communication and foster consumer trust would bridge the gulf between the shopper and producer. NUTRILAB suggests that independent assessments from experts could increase this trust as well as improve food quality legislation. Results of the extensive study include the nutritional labels analyses and scientific highlights available on the project website. There are around 100 joint publications including articles presented at international conferences. Benefits to policymakers include an understanding of how reforms to labelling impact on food security and food safety, helping the producers to fulfil all criteria of market rules. Being able to analyse food commercials and labelling, children and teens can make informed choices from an early age so these become healthy lifestyle habits throughout life’s stages. Cost-benefit analyses of food labelling reforms show that the costs of changing food labels are greatly outweighed by the health benefits of providing consumers with better label information. NUTRILAB has established the direction in which food labelling should go to achieve this ambitious goal.
Food label, health, consumer, NUTRILAB, Black Sea region