July 24, 2012
U.S. adults are better able to understand the U.K.’s Multiple Traffic Light front-of-package nutrition labeling system than the U.S. food and beverage industry’s Facts Up Front system, according to a study by the Rudd Center that appears in the advance online publication of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Learn more in this video.
When people were asked to compare two products and decide which is lower or higher in a certain nutrient such as sodium or sugar, all of the front-of-package labels helped consumers make accurate judgments and both the Traffic Light with additional nutrients to encourage and Facts Up Front symbols performed equally well. However, when consumers were asked to make judgments about individual products (e.g. determine whether a product had low, medium, or high amounts of a nutrient), the Traffic Light with additional nutrients to encourage helped consumers the most. Facts Up Front labels were more likely to lead consumers to underestimate amounts of saturated fats and sugars and overestimate amounts of protein and fibers.
“The Traffic Light labeling system is simple – red means stop and green means go. This study suggests that system may be a better bet for public health than the Facts Up Front label,” said lead author Christina Roberto, PhD, Rudd Center researcher.
The study also showed that consumers found the Traffic Light label to be the most user-friendly, while the Facts Up Front label with additional nutrients to encourage was rated as more confusing, having too much information, and taking too much time to understand. As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration creates recommendations for a uniform front-of-package labeling system, Facts Up Front could be improved by using a color-coded traffic light scheme, instead of listing grams/milligrams and percentage daily value information.