Academic journal article Human Ecology

Nutrition Labels Deter High-Fat Food Choices

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Nutrition Labels Deter High-Fat Food Choices

Article excerpt

AFTER MORE THAN six years of mandatory food labeling, consumers are becoming savvier about high-fat foods on grocery shelves, says Alan D. Mathios, associate professor of policy analysis and management. He found that sales of high-fat dressings significantly declined after mandatory labeling was instituted, providing evidence that the labels are influencing the sales of other high-fat foods as well.

To study how nutrition labels affect consumer choices, Mathios conducted a study of supermarket data of salad dressings purchased before and after the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) mandatory labeling law went into effect in 1994. Prior to the label law, all low-fat salad dressings carried nutrition labels, says Mathios, but the vast majority of high-fat dressings didn't.

"We chose to study salad dressings because they were relatively easy to analyze," says Mathios. "The study provides powerful evidence that mandatory nutrition labeling can effectively change consumer choices, suggesting that it may influence purchases of other high-fat foods as well." By studying the bar-code data from supermarket scanners, he found that before the nutrition labeling law, the high-fat, unlabeled salad dressings accounted for almost 75 percent of all salad dressings purchased by the least educated shoppers and almost 50 percent of the salad dressings bought by the most educated shoppers. …

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