Warning label most effective in identifying harmful nutrients: Study

Source: The post is based on the article “Warning label most effective in identifying harmful nutrients: Study” published in The Hindu on 20th August 2022.

What is the News?

A study conducted in India has found that warning labels on food packets are most effective in helping consumers identify foods high in sugar, saturated fat and sodium as compared to other labelling formats.

About the study

A random experiment was conducted with 2,869 adults in six States of India. Of the total participants, 50% were women with educational status of 12 years or less.

The participants were shown packaged food with one of five front-of-package labeling (FOPL) methods. 

The five FOPL used were: 1) Barcode, a control label, 2) Nutrient-specific warning label (a symbol of the octagon that indicates the proportion of salt/sugar or saturated fat), 3) Health Star Rating, 4) Guideline for the daily amount (GDA), giving information on nutritional content and 5) Label with traffic light symbol (highlighting red, amber, or green levels of concerned nutrients).

Aim of the experiment: To evaluate the impact of different types of labels used on consumers behavior.

What are the findings of the study?

Most participants(60.8%) were able to identify a nutrient of concern when they have presented with a packet with a warning label.

Health Star Rating(HSR) label performed the worst with only 45% being able to recognise the three nutrients of concern.

However, the study also found that warning labels failed to statistically significantly reduce intentions to purchase unhealthy packaged products.

What is the significance of this study?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is in the process of issuing a draft regulatory procedure on front-of-package labeling (FOPL). It is expected that it will use the Health star rating method.

This has been criticized by experts as they found the warning labels method more effective in reducing consumer intent to buy products with harmful nutrients compared to HSR.

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