Policies to require warnings on the front of food and drinks high in nutrients of concern (e.g., added sugar, sodium, or saturated fat) are becoming increasingly common as an obesity prevention strategy. Colombia, a country with growing prevalence of obesity, is considering implementing a similar policy. The objective of this study was to assess perceptions and reactions to different warning designs. We conducted a randomized experiment in an online panel of adults age > 18y (n
= 1997). Participants were randomized to view one of four labels: a control label (barcode), an octagon warning, a circle warning, and a triangle warning. Participants viewed their randomly assigned label on a series of products and answered questions (continuous outcomes ranged from 1–4). Compared to the control, all warnings led to higher perceived message effectiveness (increase in mean from 1.79 in the control to 2.59–2.65 in the warning conditions, p
< 0.001), a higher percentage of participants who correctly identified products high in nutrients of concern (from 48% in the control condition to 84–89% in the warning conditions, p
< 0.001), and reduced intentions to purchases these products (decrease in mean from 2.59 to 1.99–2.01 in the warning conditions, p
< 0.001). Relative to the control, warnings performed similarly across education levels, suggesting this policy would be equitable in Colombia. Looking at differences by warning type, the pattern of results suggested that the octagon warnings performed best. After viewing all label types, 49% of participants selected the octagon warning as the one that most discouraged them from consuming products high in nutrients of concern, while 21% and 27% selected the circle and triangle warning. Colombian policymakers should consider the octagon warning as part of a front-of-package labeling policy to help consumers identify and reduce consumption of foods and drinks high in nutrients of concern.
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