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Consumer Understanding, Perception and Interpretation of Serving Size Information on Food Labels: A Scoping Review

1
Department of Health Professions, Bern University of Applied Sciences, 3005 Bern, Switzerland
2
Société des Produits Nestlé S.A., Nestlé Research, Institute of Material Science, 1000 Lausanne, Switzerland
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School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia
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Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia
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School of Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medicine, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2019, 11(9), 2189; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11092189
Received: 18 July 2019 / Revised: 4 September 2019 / Accepted: 5 September 2019 / Published: 11 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
The increase in packaged food and beverage portion sizes has been identified as a potential factor implicated in the rise of the prevalence of obesity. In this context, the objective of this systematic scoping review was to investigate how healthy adults perceive and interpret serving size information on food packages and how this influences product perception and consumption. Such knowledge is needed to improve food labelling understanding and guide consumers toward healthier portion size choices. A search of seven databases (2010 to April 2019) provided the records for title and abstract screening, with relevant articles assessed for eligibility in the full-text. Fourteen articles met the inclusion criteria, with relevant data extracted by one reviewer and checked for consistency by a second reviewer. Twelve studies were conducted in North America, where the government regulates serving size information. Several studies reported a poor understanding of serving size labelling. Indeed, consumers interpreted the labelled serving size as a recommended serving for dietary guidelines for healthy eating rather than a typical consumption unit, which is set by the manufacturer or regulated in some countries such as in the U.S. and Canada. Not all studies assessed consumption; however, larger labelled serving sizes resulted in larger self-selected portion sizes in three studies. However, another study performed on confectionary reported the opposite effect, with larger labelled serving sizes leading to reduced consumption. The limited number of included studies showed that labelled serving size affects portion size selection and consumption, and that any labelled serving size format changes may result in increased portion size selection, energy intake and thus contribute to the rise of the prevalence of overweight and obesity. Research to test cross-continentally labelled serving size format changes within experimental and natural settings (e.g., at home) are needed. In addition, tailored, comprehensive and serving-size-specific food literacy initiatives need to be evaluated to provide recommendations for effective serving size labelling. This is required to ensure the correct understanding of nutritional content, as well as informing food choices and consumption, for both core foods and discretionary foods. View Full-Text
Keywords: serving size; portion size; food labeling; nutrition facts label; back of pack; front of pack; health framing serving size; portion size; food labeling; nutrition facts label; back of pack; front of pack; health framing
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Van der Horst, K.; Bucher, T.; Duncanson, K.; Murawski, B.; Labbe, D. Consumer Understanding, Perception and Interpretation of Serving Size Information on Food Labels: A Scoping Review. Nutrients 2019, 11, 2189.

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