Front-of-pack nutrition labels on food, such as the health star rating, have little impact when it comes to encouraging healthier food purchases, a new study shows.
The University of Auckland study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found simple interpretive labels, such as traffic lights or star ratings, made little difference to food purchases compared with the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) found on the back of food packaging.
But traffic lights and star ratings are easier to understand and more useful than NIPs, a University of Auckland press release says.
The study randomly assigned 1357 shoppers who the health star label, traffic light label or the NIP. That label’s information came up on an app when the shoppers scanned products with their smartphone. Product purchases were then analysed from shoppers’ receipts.
The results show that simple interpretive labels are no better than the current back-of-pack NIP label at increasing healthy food purchases, lead author, Cliona Ni Mhurchu says in the press release.
However, these labels are significantly preferred by shoppers and improve consumer understanding, Professor Ni Mhurchu says.
Interestingly, a subset of the population, who reads labels a lot, did buy more healthy food when using the interpretive labels, she says.