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Food Labelling to Advance Better Education for Life

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Nutrition labelling for improved food choices

EU funding has supported a group of researchers in their quest to better understand how food labelling impacts European consumers and their dietary choices.

Health

Nutrition labels can potentially steer consumers into make healthier food choices. However, current insights into how consumers use nutrition labels in actual shopping situations are limited, making the science-based formulation of new labelling policies and the evaluation of existing ones a difficult task. The 'Food labeling to advance better education for life' (FLABEL) project explored the interplay of environmental factors, personal factors and characteristics of the food label itself to explain the role of nutrition label information in making food choices and the resulting impact on dietary intake. Project efforts showed that the availability of nutrition information on food products is very high in Europe. Findings note that the majority (85%) of food packages have some nutrition information on the back of the pack and nearly half (48%) have nutrition information on the front. It was also found that consumers can understand the information presented and have no problems using it to rank products according to good health promotion. Notably, study results highlight that lack of motivation and attention are significant bottlenecks, preventing nutrition labelling from positively influencing consumer choices. Researchers found that too little attention is given to nutrition labels for the information to be meaningfully processed. Findings showed that consumers need to be motivated (e.g. have a health goal) to pay greater attention to nutrition labels and engage with the supplied information. According to FLABEL, to increase consumers' attention to and use of nutrition labels, the best way is to provide information on key nutrients and energy on the front of the pack in a consistent manner. Using a health logo to complement this information could also increase attention and use. Insights gained from FLABEL research results can help EU policy and the food industry develop guidelines regarding the use of nutrition labelling. Policy implications that have been discussed with different stakeholders include considering nutrition labelling in a broader context, standardising guidelines on its use as well as regarding the information as a major incentive for product reformulation and innovation.

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