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Nutrients 2018, 10(6), 688; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10060688

Are Front-of-Package Warning Labels More Effective at Communicating Nutrition Information than Traffic-Light Labels? A Randomized Controlled Experiment in a Brazilian Sample

1
Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition (NUPENS), Faculty of Public Health, University of São Paulo, Av. Dr. Arnaldo, 715-Cerqueira César, São Paulo 01246-904, Brazil
2
Brazilian Institute for Consumer’s Defense (Idec), R. Desembargador Guimarães, 21-Água Branca, São Paulo 05002-000, Brazil
3
Research Group of Digital and Information Design, Department of Design, Federal University of Paraná, Rua General Cameiro, 460, Curitiba 80060-050, Brazil
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 May 2018 / Revised: 21 May 2018 / Accepted: 22 May 2018 / Published: 28 May 2018
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Abstract

Background: Brazil is currently debating the implementation of front-of-package labels. This study tested if Warning labels (WLs) improved consumer understanding, perceptions, and purchase intentions compared to Traffic-Light labels (TLLs) in 1607 Brazilian adults. Methods: In this online, randomized controlled experiment participants saw images of 10 products and answered questions twice—once in a no-label, control condition and then again in a randomly assigned label condition. The relative differences in responses between WLs and TLLs between control and label conditions were estimated using one-way ANOVAs or Chi-square tests. Results: Presenting WLs on products compared to TLLs helped participants: (i) improve their understanding of excess nutrient content (27.0% versus 8.2%, p < 0.001); (ii) improve their ability to identify the healthier product (24.6% versus 3.3%, p < 0.001); (iii) decrease perceptions of product healthfulness; and (iv) correctly identify healthier products (14.0% versus 6.9%, p < 0.001), relative to the control condition. With WLs, there was also an increase in the percentage of people: (v) expressing an intention to purchase the relatively healthier option (16.1% versus 9.8%, p < 0.001); and (vi) choosing not to buy either product (13.0% versus 2.9%, p < 0.001), relative to the control condition. The participants in the WL condition had significantly more favorable opinions of the labels compared to those in the TLL group. Conclusions: WLs would be more effective, compared to the TLL, at improving consumer food choices. View Full-Text
Keywords: warning labels; traffic-light labels; randomized controlled experiment; Brazil; front-of-package labels; health promotion warning labels; traffic-light labels; randomized controlled experiment; Brazil; front-of-package labels; health promotion
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Khandpur, N.; Sato, P.M.; Mais, L.A.; Martins, A.P.B.; Spinillo, C.G.; Garcia, M.T.; Rojas, C.F.U.; Jaime, P.C. Are Front-of-Package Warning Labels More Effective at Communicating Nutrition Information than Traffic-Light Labels? A Randomized Controlled Experiment in a Brazilian Sample. Nutrients 2018, 10, 688.

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