What food labels can do for us
- Nutritional marketing claims on food packaging can be misleading about the overall health value of food.
- A study of more than 1,000 people suggests that NutriScore, a nutritional score added to products across Europe, can prevent misconceptions about food health caused by claims about sugar.
- The authors suggest that the Nutri-Score label should be mandatory when making nutrition claims on foods.
Sugar is widely known as one of the most important.
Therefore, sugar consumption in the United States has gradually increased over the past decade.
In 2017-2018, the average daily intake of added sugars for US adults was
This is a concerning trend, as excessive sugar intake is associated with several health risks, including overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and chronic inflammation.
Experts have tried several ways to help people reduce their sugar intake, such as nutrition labels. One such label is the Nutri-Score label, widely used in Europe. This is a color-coded labeling system that uses a traffic light system (green to red) to rate foods from A to E (best to worst).
In a new study, researchers show that Nutri-Score labels can more accurately represent a food’s nutritional value and avoid health misconceptions that can be caused by sugar claims such as “sugar-free.”
Researchers recommend making the Nutri-Score label mandatory if nutrition claims are used.Their findings are published in the journal pro swan.
Thanks to growing consumer awareness of the health hazards associated with excessive sugar consumption, companies are stepping up efforts to reduce the sugar content of food and beverages.
Companies also often use these price cuts as marketing claims on product packaging, such as “no sugar” or “30% less sugar.”
However, such claims can mislead consumers about the overall nutritional value of the food. For example, just because a particular brand of breakfast cereal claims to have “reduced sugar” doesn’t mean it’s a healthy food. This is known as the “health halo” effect. .
The lead author of the study, Dr. Christine Uerkenbeck, said: medical news today:
“The health halo effect means that a single characteristic is understood as a signal of an overall favorable nutritional profile. These buzzwords make food appear healthier in consumer perceptions than it actually is.”
In the study, Dr. Jürkenbeck and her team evaluated whether food labeling, particularly Nutri-Score labels used in Europe, could help prevent these false assumptions.
To assess the impact of NutriScore on perceptions of food, researchers conducted an online survey of 1,103 people in Germany.
In this survey, respondents were asked to rate the nutritional profile of three products (instant cappuccino, chocolate muesli and oat drink) from very healthy to very unhealthy.
Participants were randomly given a variety of product claims, including no sugar, less sweetness, and 30% less sugar.
They received these claims with or without the accompanying Nutri-Score label.
The results show that consumers pay the most attention to raw materials when purchasing food, followed by sugar and fat content, suggesting that sugar is important when consumers choose what to buy. was confirmed to be
Participants rated chocolate muesli as the least healthy product, followed by instant cappuccino and oat drink with a healthy image.
Importantly, the researchers also found that participants’ health ratings of foods changed based on nutrition claims.
For example, in the case of chocolate muesli, claiming 30% less sugar improved health ratings and confirmed the health halo effect.
However, if the Nutri-Score label was also displayed (a score of C or D on the scale), the claimed effect was correct.
“This study demonstrates the great difficulty faced by consumers in assessing the nutritional quality of food in a realistic manner,” summarized Dr. Jürkenbeck.
Her paper recommends that the Nutri-Score label should be mandatory, at least if marketing claims are made on the packaging, to prevent misleading consumers about the health value of the food.
Researchers say other measures, such as a sugar tax, would also help, but these would be more difficult to implement.
“Interpretive labels like Nutri-Score can counteract the effects of sugar claims and make foods appear healthier than they actually are. can be better classified.”
– Dr. Kristin Yurkenbeck