Special Issue "Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception"

A special issue of Nutrients (ISSN 2072-6643). This special issue belongs to the section "Nutrition, Education and Dietetics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Daniela Martini
SciProfiles
Guest Editor
Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences, University of Milan, Italy
Interests: food labeling; food regulation; bioactive compounds; oxidative stress
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Davide Menozzi
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Food and Drug, University of Parma, Via Kennedy 6, 43125 Parma, Italy
Interests: analysis of consumer behavior and preferences; the evaluation of the socio-economic sustainability of dietary behaviors; economic analysis of food safety and food quality schemes with a value chain sustainability perspective
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Food labels are a tool to promote public health by providing information which allows consumers to make informed dietary choices. At the same time, food labels may represent a marketing tool and may influence consumers’ perception of food quality.
This Special Issue welcomes original research and reviews of literature focusing on:

  • The analysis of the nutrient profile of products with different characteristics reported on the food labels (including but not limited to nutrition and health claims, organic, gluten-free);
  • The nutrient profile underlying FOP nutrition labels and their graphical design in different countries;
  • The consumers’ perception, knowledge and understanding of the information made on food;
  • The impact of information on food labeling (e.g., front-of-pack information, serving size) on consumers’ willingness to pay and food choice;
  • The attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, behavioral, and socioeconomic determinants regarding the use of food labels.

Dr. Daniela Martini
Prof. Davide Menozzi
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • food label
  • nutrition and health claims
  • gluten free
  • organic
  • nutrition declaration
  • food choice
  • consumer behavior
  • consumer attitude
  • willingness to pay
  • consumer perception
  • food decision making
  • food packaging

Published Papers (24 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Supermarket Circulars Promoting the Sales of ‘Healthy’ Foods: Analysis Based on Degree of Processing
Nutrients 2020, 12(9), 2877; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12092877 - 21 Sep 2020
Abstract
The health and wellness food sector grew 98% from 2009 to 2014 in Brazil, the world’s fourth-biggest market. The trend has reached supermarket circulars, which recently started to feature whole sections advertising health and wellness-enhancing foods. This study identified food items advertised in [...] Read more.
The health and wellness food sector grew 98% from 2009 to 2014 in Brazil, the world’s fourth-biggest market. The trend has reached supermarket circulars, which recently started to feature whole sections advertising health and wellness-enhancing foods. This study identified food items advertised in circulars’ specific sections of two Brazilian supermarket chains (one regional, one national) during a 10-week period. Foods were classified according to degree of food processing and presence/type of claims on their front-of-pack (FoP) labels. Comparison between groups of Unprocessed/Minimally Processed foods vs. Ultra-processed foods and presence/type of claims employed Pearson chi-square test. From the 434 alleged health and wellness-enhancing foods advertised, around half (51.4%) were classified as Ultra-processed. Presence of reduced and increased nutrient-content claims was significantly higher in labels of Ultra-processed foods. Most frequent claims addressed sugar and fibre content. Brazilian supermarket circulars were found to be promoting the sale of Ultra-processed foods in their health and wellness sections, leading to a situation that can mislead the consumer and bring negative health outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Characteristics of Allergen Labelling and Precautionary Allergen Labelling in Packaged Food Products Available in Latin America
Nutrients 2020, 12(9), 2698; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12092698 - 04 Sep 2020
Abstract
The characteristics of food allergen labelling are relevant for avoiding accidental exposure to the allergens of interest but no Latin American country has evaluated these characteristics. Our aim was to evaluate the characteristics of food allergen labelling and precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) in [...] Read more.
The characteristics of food allergen labelling are relevant for avoiding accidental exposure to the allergens of interest but no Latin American country has evaluated these characteristics. Our aim was to evaluate the characteristics of food allergen labelling and precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) in six Latin American countries. All data were collected directly from the supermarkets surveyed. A total of 10,254 packaged food products were analyzed, of which 63.3% (n = 6494) and 33.2% (n = 3405) featured allergen labelling and/or PAL, respectively. Most products complied with local regulations (≥87.4% for both locally produced and imported). Thirty-three types of PAL statements were detected; the most frequent was “may contain traces of…” (35.1%). Countries without regulations on the characteristics of allergen labelling had two-fold more products that contained allergens in their ingredients lists but no food allergen labelling. The use of PAL in countries that regulate it (38.2%) was as high as that in countries without PAL regulations (19.2%–44.7%). The findings suggest that the lack of regulations for the characteristics of allergen labeling increases the risk of accidental exposure to allergens of interest. Our findings also suggest that beyond regulations, a scientific approach is required for minimizing and standardizing the use of PAL. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Consumers’ Preferences and Willingness to Pay for Fish Products with Health and Environmental Labels: Evidence from Five European Countries
Nutrients 2020, 12(9), 2650; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12092650 - 31 Aug 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Seafood products are important sources of protein and components of a healthy and sustainable diet. Understanding consumers’ preferences for fish products is crucial for increasing fish consumption. This article reports the consumer preferences and willingness to pay (WTP) for different fish species and [...] Read more.
Seafood products are important sources of protein and components of a healthy and sustainable diet. Understanding consumers’ preferences for fish products is crucial for increasing fish consumption. This article reports the consumer preferences and willingness to pay (WTP) for different fish species and attributes on representative samples in five European countries (n = 2509): France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK. Consumer choices were investigated for fresh fish in a retail market under hypothetical situations arranged by a labelled choice experiment conducted for seven fish species: Cod, herring, seabass, seabream, salmon, trout, and pangasius. The results show the highest premiums for wild-caught fish than farm-raised alternatives. Ready-to-cook products are generally preferred to whole fish, whereas fish fillet preference is more species-specific. The results show positive premiums for a sustainability label and nutrition and health claims, with high heterogeneity across countries and species. With consumers’ preferences and WTP being largely country- and fish-dependent, businesses (fish companies, retailers, and others) should consider the specific market context and adapt their labelling strategies accordingly. Public authorities campaigns should inform consumers about the tangible benefits related with health and environmental labels. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Who Reads Food Labels? Selected Predictors of Consumer Interest in Front-of-Package and Back-of-Package Labels during and after the Purchase
Nutrients 2020, 12(9), 2605; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12092605 - 27 Aug 2020
Abstract
The paper aims to identify selected predictors of food label use to extend our knowledge about consumer behavior related to food purchases. Two types of information were examined: front-of-package (FOP) and back-of-package (BOP), and two contexts of reading labels were distinguished: during shopping [...] Read more.
The paper aims to identify selected predictors of food label use to extend our knowledge about consumer behavior related to food purchases. Two types of information were examined: front-of-package (FOP) and back-of-package (BOP), and two contexts of reading labels were distinguished: during shopping and at home. Various types of potential predictors were tested, including demographic (e.g., age, gender, household size, place of living), socioeconomic (e.g., education, professional activity, income), behavioral (e.g., purchasing certain types of products), and psychographic (e.g., importance attached to various types of information) criteria. The survey was conducted with the use of the CAWI (Computer-Assisted Web Interviews) methodology in a sample of 1051 Polish consumers. Quota sampling was applied based on sex, age, education, place of living (urban vs. rural), and region. Descriptive statistics, t-tests, ANOVAs, Pearson correlation coefficients, and multiple and retrograde step regressions were applied. In retrograde step regression models, only one predictor (self-rated knowledge about nutrition healthiness) turned out to be significant for all four measures of label reading. The remaining predictors were specific to selected measures of reading labels. The importance of the information about the content of fat and that about the health effects of consuming a food product were significant predictors of three types of food label use. This study confirms the necessity to investigate reading labels in fine-grained models, adapted to different types of labels and different contexts of reading. Our results show that demographic or socioeconomic variables are not significant predictors of reading food labels for a large group of Polish consumers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
Open AccessCommunication
Dietary Fibre Consensus from the International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium (ICQC)
Nutrients 2020, 12(9), 2553; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12092553 - 24 Aug 2020
Abstract
Dietary fibre is a generic term describing non-absorbed plant carbohydrates and small amounts of associated non-carbohydrate components. The main contributors of fibre to the diet are the cell walls of plant tissues, which are supramolecular polymer networks containing variable proportions of cellulose, hemicelluloses, [...] Read more.
Dietary fibre is a generic term describing non-absorbed plant carbohydrates and small amounts of associated non-carbohydrate components. The main contributors of fibre to the diet are the cell walls of plant tissues, which are supramolecular polymer networks containing variable proportions of cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectic substances, and non-carbohydrate components, such as lignin. Other contributors of fibre are the intracellular storage oligosaccharides, such as fructans. A distinction needs to be made between intrinsic sources of dietary fibre and purified forms of fibre, given that the three-dimensional matrix of the plant cell wall confers benefits beyond fibre isolates. Movement through the digestive tract modifies the cell wall structure and may affect the interactions with the colonic microbes (e.g., small intestinally non-absorbed carbohydrates are broken down by bacteria to short-chain fatty acids, absorbed by colonocytes). These aspects, combined with the fibre associated components (e.g., micronutrients, polyphenols, phytosterols, and phytoestrogens), may contribute to the health outcomes seen with the consumption of dietary fibre. Therefore, where possible, processing should minimise the degradation of the plant cell wall structures to preserve some of its benefits. Food labelling should include dietary fibre values and distinguish between intrinsic and added fibre. Labelling may also help achieve the recommended intake of 14 g/1000 kcal/day. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
The Effect of Labelling and Visual Properties on the Acceptance of Foods Containing Insects
Nutrients 2020, 12(9), 2498; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12092498 - 19 Aug 2020
Abstract
Introducing insects as a source of nutrients (e.g., protein) plays a key role in many countries’ environmental policies. However, westerners generally reject insects as an ingredient of food products and meals. The aim of our study was to assess if explicitly labelling food [...] Read more.
Introducing insects as a source of nutrients (e.g., protein) plays a key role in many countries’ environmental policies. However, westerners generally reject insects as an ingredient of food products and meals. The aim of our study was to assess if explicitly labelling food as containing insects and/or implying it by manipulating the appearance of food influences the participants’ perception of food products or their behavioral reaction to such products. Participants were asked to try a range of foods, none of which contained ingredients derived from insects. However, the experimental conditions varied with regard to food labelling (insect content) and appearance (traces of insect-like ingredients). We observed the participants’ non-verbal behavioral reactions to the foods. Next, the respondents filled in a questionnaire evaluating the food’s properties. Additionally, we asked the participants to fill in a set of questionnaires measuring other variables (food neophobia, disgust, variety seeking, etc.) The results showed that products labelled as containing insects are consumed with reluctance and in lower quantities despite their appearance. In addition, people with lower general neophobia and a higher tendency to seek variety tried the insect-labelled samples sooner than people from the other groups. Recommendations for marketing strategies are provided. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Energy Density of New Food Products Targeted to Children
Nutrients 2020, 12(8), 2242; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082242 - 27 Jul 2020
Abstract
High dietary energy density (ED) is linked to childhood obesity and poor diet quality. The Australian Health Star Rating (HSR) system aims to assist consumers in making healthful food choices. This cross-sectional study used 2014–2018 data from the Mintel Global New Products Database [...] Read more.
High dietary energy density (ED) is linked to childhood obesity and poor diet quality. The Australian Health Star Rating (HSR) system aims to assist consumers in making healthful food choices. This cross-sectional study used 2014–2018 data from the Mintel Global New Products Database to describe the ED of new food products targeted to children (5–12 years) released after the introduction of HSR and examine relationships between ED and HSR. Products were categorised by ED (low < 630 kJ/100 g, medium 630–950 kJ/100 g, high > 950 kJ/100 g) and HSR (no, HSR < 2.5 low, HSR ≥ 2.5 high). Non-parametric statistics were used to examine ED and HSR. A total of 548 products targeted children: 21% low, 5% medium, 74% high ED. One hundred products displayed an HSR: 24% low, 76% high; 53 products with both high HSR and ED. The EDs of products differed by HSR (p < 0.05), but both group’s medians (HSR < 2.5: 1850 kJ/100 g, HSR ≥ 2.5: 1507 kJ/100 g) were high. A high proportion of new products had a high ED, and the HSR of these foods did not consistently discriminate between ED levels, particularly for high ED foods. Policies to promote lower ED foods and better alignment between ED and HSR may improve childhood obesity and diet quality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Consumer Misuse of Country-of-Origin Label: Insights from the Italian Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Market
Nutrients 2020, 12(7), 2150; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12072150 - 19 Jul 2020
Abstract
Providing information to consumers through the label is a means for food companies to inform consumers about product’s attributes, including the country of origin (COO). In the EU, COO labeling has been made mandatory for several categories of food products, to enable consumers [...] Read more.
Providing information to consumers through the label is a means for food companies to inform consumers about product’s attributes, including the country of origin (COO). In the EU, COO labeling has been made mandatory for several categories of food products, to enable consumers to make informed choices at the point of sale. In particular, Regulation (EU) No 29/2012 has introduced a mandatory country-of-origin labeling system for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). In the present study, conducted in Italy, we test whether there is a price differential associated with the COO information for EVOO. To this end, we employ a hedonic price model and data about the purchase of EVOO products collected from 982 consumers at the supermarket checkout. Having interviewed these consumers, we also assess the share of EVOO consumers that correctly identify the country of origin of the product purchased. Our findings point out that, in Italy, the EVOO with domestic origin, indicated on the label, benefits of a premium price equal to +35% compared to the product labeled as blend of European EVOOs, while a discount of −10.8% is attached to EVOOs from a non-European origin. A significant share of consumers in our sample (19.04%) is, however, unable to correctly identify the origin of the EVOO purchased. This label misuse mostly occurs among consumers who report that they had purchased Italian EVOO, while they had actually purchased a blend of European EVOOs. Female and more highly educated consumers are less likely to misuse label information about the product’s origins. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
Open AccessArticle
The Effect of an Online Sugar Fact Intervention: Change of Mothers with Young Children
Nutrients 2020, 12(6), 1859; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061859 - 22 Jun 2020
Abstract
Research indicates that high sugar intake in early childhood may increase risks of tooth decay, obesity and chronic disease later in life. In this sugar fact study, we explored whether an online intervention which focused on comprehensive and useful information about nutrition labels [...] Read more.
Research indicates that high sugar intake in early childhood may increase risks of tooth decay, obesity and chronic disease later in life. In this sugar fact study, we explored whether an online intervention which focused on comprehensive and useful information about nutrition labels impacted mother’s choice of low sugar food. The intervention was developed on the basis of the theory of planned behavior. In total, 122 mothers were recruited. Mothers were divided into an online-only group and a plus group. Knowledge of sugar and nutrition labels, behavioral attitudes, perceived behavioral control, behavioral intentions and behavior towards purchasing low-sugar products with nutrition labels were collected. After the intervention, both groups exhibited significantly enhanced sugar and nutrition label knowledge, perceived behavioral control, behavioral intentions and behavior. Compared to the online-only group, knowledge, perceived behavioral control and behavior of the plus group significantly improved. After the intervention, about 40% of the plus group and 80% of the online-only group still did not know the World Health Organization (WHO) sugar recommendations. Understanding sugar recommendations and using nutrition labels are crucial to help people control calorie and sugar intake. Further research with a larger sample is warranted to evaluate the effects of the intervention on long-term changes in shopping behavior. More efficient and convenient nutrition education is required to increase public awareness of sugar recommendations and help people control calorie and sugar intake. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
The Impact of the Food Labeling and Other Factors on Consumer Preferences Using Discrete Choice Modeling—The Example of Traditional Pork Sausage
Nutrients 2020, 12(6), 1768; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061768 - 12 Jun 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
In our study, we examined whether product characteristics indicated by food labels matter in purchasing decisions for sausage made from traditional Hungarian mangalica pork; and how much consumers are willing to pay for them. On the other hand, we also tried to measure [...] Read more.
In our study, we examined whether product characteristics indicated by food labels matter in purchasing decisions for sausage made from traditional Hungarian mangalica pork; and how much consumers are willing to pay for them. On the other hand, we also tried to measure whether any changes in consumers’ preferences occurred in recent years. Two product characteristics (label of origin and different mangalica meat content) and two other factors (place of purchase and price) are examined in a discrete choice experiment based on stated preference data. According to our expectations, government-funded consumer campaigns in recent years have had an impact on consumers purchase of this traditional product, and they pay more attention to food labels, which can also be influenced by sociodemographic characteristics. Our results have been compared to a previous choice-model based research, investigating consumers’ attitude towards similar mangalica pork products. Three different types of models (multinomial logit, random parameter logit, and latent class) are employed, from which two types of models account for the heterogeneity in preferences. Based on the results, it can be concluded that the advertisements promoting traditional meat consumption had only a partial effect on consumer attitudes. Consumers clearly prefer the label of origin indicating meat from registered animals and purchasing on the farmers’ market, but according to the indication of the different mangalica meat content in the product, we have already reached conflicting results. Three consumer segments were identified: “price sensitive, loyal to label, label neutral” based on latent class model estimates. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
Open AccessArticle
Prevalence of Product Claims and Marketing Buzzwords Found on Health Food Snack Products Does Not Relate to Nutrient Profile
Nutrients 2020, 12(5), 1513; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051513 - 22 May 2020
Abstract
Growth in the consumer health and wellness industry has led to an increase of packaged foods marketed as health food (HF) products. In consequence, a ‘health halo’ around packaged HF has arisen that influences consumers at point-of-purchase. This study compared product claims (nutrient [...] Read more.
Growth in the consumer health and wellness industry has led to an increase of packaged foods marketed as health food (HF) products. In consequence, a ‘health halo’ around packaged HF has arisen that influences consumers at point-of-purchase. This study compared product claims (nutrient content claims (NCC), health claims and marketing ‘buzzwords’) displayed on packaged HF snack products sold in HF stores and HF aisles in supermarkets to equivalent products sold in regular aisles (RA) of supermarkets. Product Health Star Rating (HSR), nutrient profile and price were also compared. Data were collected for 2361 products from three supermarket chains, two HF chains and one independent HF store in Sydney, Australia. Mann-Whitney U tests compared the product claims, HSR, nutrient composition and unit ($) price. HF snacks displayed significantly more product claims per product compared to RA foods (HSR ≤ 2.5), median (IQR) 5.0(4.0) versus 1.0(2) and (HSR > 2.5) 4.0(4.0) versus 3.0(4), respectively (p < 0.001). A significantly different HSR was evident between HF and RA snack products, median 2.5(0) versus 2.0(1.5), respectively (p < 0.001). HF snacks cost significantly more than RA snack foods, irrespective of product HSR (p < 0.001). These findings support the recommendation for revised labelling regulations and increased education regarding consumers food label interpretation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
The Nutritional Quality of Organic and Conventional Food Products Sold in Italy: Results from the Food Labelling of Italian Products (FLIP) Study
Nutrients 2020, 12(5), 1273; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051273 - 30 Apr 2020
Cited by 3
Abstract
The market for organic products is growing rapidly, probably attributable to the general customer perception that they are healthier foods, with a better nutritional profile than conventional ones. Despite this, the available studies show limited differences in the nutrient profile of organically and [...] Read more.
The market for organic products is growing rapidly, probably attributable to the general customer perception that they are healthier foods, with a better nutritional profile than conventional ones. Despite this, the available studies show limited differences in the nutrient profile of organically and conventionally primary food products. Apart from this literature, no studies have focused on the nutrition profile of commercially prepacked foods. Thus, the aim of the present survey was to compare the nutritional quality intended as nutrition facts of organic and conventional prepacked foods sold in Italy. A total of 569 pairs of prepacked products (organic and their conventional counterparts) were selected from nine food categories sold by online retailers. By comparing organic and conventional products in the “pasta, rice and other cereals” category, the former were lower in energy, protein, and higher in saturates compared to the latter. Organic “jams, chocolate spreads and honey” products were lower in energy, carbohydrates, sugars and higher in protein than their regular counterparts. No differences were found for energy, macronutrients and salt for other categories. Therefore, based on the mandatory information printed on their packaging, prepacked organic products are not of a superior nutritional quality than conventional ones, with just a few exceptions. Consequently, the present study suggests that organic certification cannot be considered an indication of better overall nutritional quality. Further studies examining the nutritional quality of organic foods, taking into account the ingredients used, might better explain the results obtained. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Sugar Content in Processed Foods in Spain and a Comparison of Mandatory Nutrition Labelling and Laboratory Values
Nutrients 2020, 12(4), 1078; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12041078 - 13 Apr 2020
Abstract
To reduce the sugar content of processed foods through reformulation, the first step is to determine the content of the largest sources of sugars in each country’s diet. The aim of this work was to describe the sugar content in the most commonly [...] Read more.
To reduce the sugar content of processed foods through reformulation, the first step is to determine the content of the largest sources of sugars in each country’s diet. The aim of this work was to describe the sugar content in the most commonly consumed processed foods in Spain and to compare that sugar’s labelling and laboratory analysis values (LVs and AVs, respectively) to confirm its adequacy. A sample of the 1173 most commonly consumed processed foods in Spain (28 groups; 77 subcategories) was collected. For each product, the total sugar content was compared according to its AV and LV. The median (25th –75th percentiles, interquartile range) sugar content by group was calculated for the total sample, and the groups were classified as “high sugar content” when this value was above 22.5 g/100g of product. The adequacy of the LV, according to the European Union (EU) tolerance requirements, was then evaluated, and each subcategory median was compared with the AV to determine its appropriateness via a median test for independent samples (p < 0.05). In total, 10 out of 28 groups presented high sugar content. Moreover, 98.4% of the products met the EU tolerance ranges. Finally, only one subcategory (“cured ham”) presented significant differences between the AV and LV median values (0.4 g vs. 0.1 g sugar/100g, p < 0.05). The groups of food products whose sugar content reduction could have the greatest impact on public health were identified. In addition, our study showed the high adequacy of LV with the EU labeling tolerance requirements, as well as the LV’s appropriateness as a tool to implement actions aimed at reducing sugar consumption. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Consumers’ Perceptions of the Australian Health Star Rating Labelling Scheme
Nutrients 2020, 12(3), 704; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12030704 - 06 Mar 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The objective of this study was to explore consumers’ use and perception of the Australian Health Star Rating (HSR). A purposive sample of fifteen Australian grocery shoppers was recruited into four focus groups using a supermarket intercept strategy. Focus group discussions were recorded, [...] Read more.
The objective of this study was to explore consumers’ use and perception of the Australian Health Star Rating (HSR). A purposive sample of fifteen Australian grocery shoppers was recruited into four focus groups using a supermarket intercept strategy. Focus group discussions were recorded, transcribed and analysed using an iterative approach to thematic analysis. Three key themes emerged from analysis. The HSR was seen as simple, uncluttered, easy to understand and useful for quick comparison across products. The nutrition information was viewed positively; however, there was little confidence in the HSR due to a perceived lack of transparency in the criteria used to determine the number of stars. Highly processed foods were generally seen as having inflated ratings and participants expressed concern that this would increase consumption of these products. Finally, there was a belief that the HSR had a lack of negative imagery limiting the dissuasive impact on consumers when presented with low-rated foods. Consumers saw benefits in the HSR but were sceptical about how the ratings were derived. Transparency about the development and education on the application may assist with consumers’ perception of the HSR. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
Open AccessArticle
How Much Sugar is in My Drink? The Power of Visual Cues
Nutrients 2020, 12(2), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12020394 - 02 Feb 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Despite widespread attempts to educate consumers about the dangers of sugar, as well as the advent of nutritional labeling, individuals still struggle to make educated decisions about the foods they eat, and/or to use the Nutrition Facts Panel. This study examined the effect [...] Read more.
Despite widespread attempts to educate consumers about the dangers of sugar, as well as the advent of nutritional labeling, individuals still struggle to make educated decisions about the foods they eat, and/or to use the Nutrition Facts Panel. This study examined the effect of visual aids on judgments of sugar quantity in popular drinks, and choices. 261 volunteers at four different locations evaluated 11 common beverages. Key measures were estimates of sugar in the drinks, nutrition knowledge, and desire to consume them. In the experimental condition, participants viewed beverages along with test tubes filled with the total amount of sugar in each drink; the control condition had no sugar display. Both groups were encouraged to examine the Nutrition Facts Panel when making their evaluations. Correlational analyses revealed that consumers exposed to the visual aid overestimated sugar content and the length of time needed to exercise to burn off the calories; they also had lower intentions to consume any of the beverages. Individuals asserting to use the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) in general were also less likely to admit using it in this particular study (r = −2, p = 0.001). This study suggests that a simple visual aid intervention affected judgments and choices towards curtailing sugar intake. This has implications for labeling format implementation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
The Color Nutrition Information Paradox: Effects of Suggested Sugar Content on Food Cue Reactivity in Healthy Young Women
Nutrients 2020, 12(2), 312; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12020312 - 24 Jan 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Color nutrition information (CNI) based on a traffic light system conveys information about food quality with a glance. The color red typically indicates detrimental food characteristics (e.g., very high sugar content) and aims at inhibiting food shopping and consumption. Red may, however, also [...] Read more.
Color nutrition information (CNI) based on a traffic light system conveys information about food quality with a glance. The color red typically indicates detrimental food characteristics (e.g., very high sugar content) and aims at inhibiting food shopping and consumption. Red may, however, also elicit cross-modal associations with sweet taste, which is a preferable food characteristic. We conducted two experiments. An eye-tracking study investigated whether CNI has an effect on cue reactivity (dwell time, saccadic latency, wanting/liking) for sweet foods. The participants were presented with images depicting sweets (e.g., cake). Each image was preceded by a colored circle that informed about the sugar content of the food (red = high, green = low, gray = unknown). It was tested whether the red circle would help the participants to direct their gaze away from the ‘high sugar’ item. A second experiment investigated whether colored prime circles (red, green, gray) without nutrition information would influence the assumed sweetness of a food. In Experiment 1, CNI had the opposite of the intended effect. Dwell time and saccadic latency were higher for food items preceded by a red compared to a green circle. This unintended response was positively associated with participants’ liking of sweet foods. CNI did not change the wanting/liking of the displayed foods. In Experiment 2, we found no evidence for color priming on the assumed sweetness of food. Our results question whether CNI is helpful to influence initial cue reactivity toward sweet foods. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Selected Predictors of the Importance Attached to Salt Content Information on the Food Packaging (a Study among Polish Consumers)
Nutrients 2020, 12(2), 293; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12020293 - 22 Jan 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
This paper aims to identify selected antecedents of the importance attached to salt content information (ISCI) placed on food labels, on the basis of a representative survey of 1051 Polish consumers. The study was conducted with the use of the CAWI (Computer Assisted [...] Read more.
This paper aims to identify selected antecedents of the importance attached to salt content information (ISCI) placed on food labels, on the basis of a representative survey of 1051 Polish consumers. The study was conducted with the use of the CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interviews) method in 2018. Quota sampling was applied with reference to the following five criteria: sex, age, education, place of living (urban and rural areas), and region. In a multiple regression model, ISCI depends on the respondent’s: sex, age, evaluation of the quantity of nutrition claims, importance attached to nutrition claims, willingness to pay a price premium for products with nutrition claims, attention paid to health and nutrition claims, agreeing with the opinion that unreliable nutrition claims are a serious problem, evaluation of healthiness of one’s diet, self-rated knowledge about healthy nutrition, buying organic food, and reading front-of-package (FOP) labels during and after the purchase. The strongest effects on the importance attached to salt content information on the food packaging were displayed by the importance of nutrition claims, attention paid to nutrition and health claims, respondent’s age, FOP label reading at home, and agreeing that the use of unreliable nutrition claims is a serious problem. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
Open AccessArticle
Evaluation of the Nutritional Quality of Breakfast Cereals Sold on the Italian Market: The Food Labelling of Italian Products (FLIP) Study
Nutrients 2019, 11(11), 2827; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11112827 - 19 Nov 2019
Cited by 5
Abstract
Breakfast cereals are present on the market as different types and, in general, are one of the food categories in which voluntary information, such as nutrition or health claims (NHC) or gluten free (GF) declarations, have the largest distribution. The aims of the [...] Read more.
Breakfast cereals are present on the market as different types and, in general, are one of the food categories in which voluntary information, such as nutrition or health claims (NHC) or gluten free (GF) declarations, have the largest distribution. The aims of the present study were to compare (i) the nutritional declaration among different types of breakfast cereals, as well as among products with and without NHC or GF declarations; and (ii) the salt and sugar contents with the “Italian shared objectives for the improvement of the nutritional characteristics of food”. To this aim, the nutrition declarations of 371 different breakfast cereal items, available in 13 retailers present on the Italian market, were analysed. Data showed an elevated inter-product variability, with cereal bars and muesli having the highest energy, total fat, and saturate contents per 100 g. Limited differences were found comparing products with and without NHC, as well as those with GF declaration. Most of the breakfast cereals were compliant to the shared objectives, although some items with NHC or GF declaration still have sugar or salt contents higher than these objectives. In conclusion, these data suggest that the different characteristics and the regulated information reported on the food label should not be considered as a marker of the overall nutritional quality. Thus, this study supports the importance of reading and understanding the information made on food label. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Consumers’ Perceptions of Five Front-of-Package Nutrition Labels: An Experimental Study Across 12 Countries
Nutrients 2019, 11(8), 1934; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081934 - 16 Aug 2019
Cited by 12
Abstract
Consumers’ perceptions of five front-of-pack nutrition label formats (health star rating (HSR), multiple traffic lights (MTL), Nutri-Score, reference intakes (RI) and warning label) were assessed across 12 countries (Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, the UK and the USA). [...] Read more.
Consumers’ perceptions of five front-of-pack nutrition label formats (health star rating (HSR), multiple traffic lights (MTL), Nutri-Score, reference intakes (RI) and warning label) were assessed across 12 countries (Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, the UK and the USA). Perceptions assessed included liking, trust, comprehensibility, salience and desire for the label to be mandatory. A sample of 12,015 respondents completed an online survey in which they rated one of the five (randomly allocated) front-of-pack labels (FoPLs) along the perception dimensions described above. Respondents viewing the MTL provided the most favourable ratings. Perceptions of the other FoPLs were mixed or neutral. No meaningful or consistent patterns were observed in the interactions between country and FoPL type, indicating that culture was not a strong predictor of general perceptions. The overall ranking of the FoPLs differed somewhat from previous research assessing their objective performance in terms of enhancing understanding of product healthiness, in which the Nutri-Score was the clear front-runner. Respondents showed a strong preference for mandatory labelling, regardless of label condition, which is consistent with past research showing that the application of labels across all products leads to healthier choices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessArticle
Consumers’ Responses to Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling: Results from a Sample from The Netherlands
Nutrients 2019, 11(8), 1817; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081817 - 06 Aug 2019
Cited by 10
Abstract
Front-of-pack labels (FoPLs) are efficient tools for helping consumers identify healthier food products. Although discussions on nutritional labelling are currently ongoing in Europe, few studies have compared the effectiveness of FoPLs in European countries, including the Netherlands. This study aimed to compare five [...] Read more.
Front-of-pack labels (FoPLs) are efficient tools for helping consumers identify healthier food products. Although discussions on nutritional labelling are currently ongoing in Europe, few studies have compared the effectiveness of FoPLs in European countries, including the Netherlands. This study aimed to compare five FoPLs among Dutch participants (the Health Star Rating (HSR) system, Multiple Traffic Lights (MTL), Nutri-Score, Reference Intakes (RIs), and Warning symbols) in terms of perception and understanding of the labels and food choices. In 2019, 1032 Dutch consumers were recruited and asked to select one product from among a set of three foods with different nutritional profiles, and then rank the products within the sets according to their nutritional quality. These tasks were performed with no label and then with one of the five FoPLs on the package, depending on the randomization arm. Finally, participants were questioned on their perceptions regarding the label to which they were exposed. Regarding perceptions, all FoPLs were favorably perceived but with only marginal differences between FoPLs. While no significant difference across labels was observed for food choices, the Nutri-Score demonstrated the highest overall performance in helping consumers rank the products according to their nutritional quality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Factors that Influence the Perceived Healthiness of Food—Review
Nutrients 2020, 12(6), 1881; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061881 - 24 Jun 2020
Abstract
The interest of consumers is the consumption of healthy food, whereas the interest of food manufacturers is that consumers recognize the produced “healthier” food items on the shelves, so they can satisfy their demands. This way, identifying the factors that influence the perceived [...] Read more.
The interest of consumers is the consumption of healthy food, whereas the interest of food manufacturers is that consumers recognize the produced “healthier” food items on the shelves, so they can satisfy their demands. This way, identifying the factors that influence the perceived healthiness of food products is a mutual interest. What causes consumers to consider one product more beneficial to health than another? In recent years, numerous studies have been published on the topic of the influence of several health-related factors on consumer perception. This analysis collected and categorized the research results related to this question. This review collects 59 articles with the help of the search engines Science Direct, Wiley Online Library, MDPI and Emerald Insight between 1 January 2014 and 31 March 2019. Our paper yielded six separate categories that influence consumers in their perception of the healthiness of food items: the communicated information—like FoP labels and health claims, the product category, the shape and colour of the product packaging, the ingredients of the product, the organic origin of the product, and the taste and other sensory features of the product. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessReview
Destigmatizing Carbohydrate with Food Labeling: The Use of Non-Mandatory Labelling to Highlight Quality Carbohydrate Foods
Nutrients 2020, 12(6), 1725; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061725 - 09 Jun 2020
Abstract
Dietary carbohydrates are components of healthy foods, but many carbohydrate foods have recently been stigmatized as primary causes of diet-related risk factors for chronic disease. There is an opportunity to enhance efforts within the food landscape to encourage the consumption of higher quality [...] Read more.
Dietary carbohydrates are components of healthy foods, but many carbohydrate foods have recently been stigmatized as primary causes of diet-related risk factors for chronic disease. There is an opportunity to enhance efforts within the food landscape to encourage the consumption of higher quality carbohydrate foods. The use of labelling is one strategy that permits consumers to identify healthy carbohydrate foods at the point-of-purchase. This review discusses the regulatory frameworks and examples of associated non-mandatory food labelling claims that are currently employed to highlight healthy carbohydrate foods to consumers. The existing labelling frameworks discussed here align with established measures of carbohydrate quality, such as 1. dietary fibre nutrient content claims and associated dietary fibre-based health claims; 2. the presence of whole carbohydrate foods and ingredients that are intact or reconstituted, such as whole grains; and 3. low glycemic index and glycemic response claims. Standards from Codex Alimentarius, and regulations from Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and the United States will be used to illustrate the means by which food labelling can be used by consumers to identify quality carbohydrate foods. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessReview
Effects of Menu Labeling Policies on Transnational Restaurant Chains to Promote a Healthy Diet: A Scoping Review to Inform Policy and Research
Nutrients 2020, 12(6), 1544; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061544 - 26 May 2020
Abstract
There is insufficient evidence that restaurant menu labeling policies are cost-effective strategies to reduce obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Evidence suggests that menu labeling has a modest effect on calories purchased and consumed. No review has been published on the effect of [...] Read more.
There is insufficient evidence that restaurant menu labeling policies are cost-effective strategies to reduce obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Evidence suggests that menu labeling has a modest effect on calories purchased and consumed. No review has been published on the effect of menu labeling policies on transnational restaurant chains globally. This study conducted a two-step scoping review to map and describe the effect of restaurant menu labeling policies on menu reformulation. First, we identified national, state, and municipal menu labeling policies in countries from global databases. Second, we searched four databases (i.e., PubMed, CINHAL/EBSCO, Web of Science, and Google Scholar) for peer-reviewed studies and gray-literature sources in English and Spanish (2000–2020). Step 1 identified three voluntary and eight mandatory menu labeling policies primarily for energy disclosures for 11 upper-middle and high-income countries, but none for low- or middle-income countries. Step 2 identified 15 of 577 studies that met the inclusion criteria. The analysis showed reductions in energy for newly introduced menu items only in the United States. We suggest actions for governments, civil society organizations, and the restaurant businesses to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive menu labeling policies to determine whether these may reduce obesity and NCD risks worldwide. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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Open AccessReview
Consumer Understanding, Perception and Interpretation of Serving Size Information on Food Labels: A Scoping Review
Nutrients 2019, 11(9), 2189; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11092189 - 11 Sep 2019
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Labeling: Analysis, Understanding, and Perception)
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