Nutrition

Americans go to Nutrition Facts Label for health information

Reading Nutrition Facts label on peanut butter

WASHINGTON — A majority of U.S. adults are turning food packages around and reading the label, according to a survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation and the American Heart Association. The online survey of 1,017 Americans aged 18-80 conducted last October found 69% said they check the Nutrition Facts Label when looking for information about the food’s healthfulness. Another 67% said they check the ingredient list.

Other answers above 50% were nutrient content claims on the package at 56% and statements about the absence of certain ingredients at 54%. The response with the lowest percentage was a mobile phone app at 17%.

When asked how difficult it was to find healthy food, 28% said it was easy, 61% called it moderate, and 11% said it was difficult.

“We know consumers are making efforts to eat healthier, but our research indicates that their ability to locate the information they find most helpful can be a barrier to making healthier choices,” said Joseph Clayton, chief executive officer of the Washington-based IFIC Foundation. “Even subtle changes to food labels could have a positive impact on public health.”

In other survey findings, 59% said they always read labels on a packaged product before buying it for the first time, 56% said they avoid certain foods or food products regardless of its labeling, and 54% said it would be helpful to have a symbol or image on food packages that indicates whether it is healthy. The survey found 21% of respondents said a healthy symbol on a package would have the most influence on their purchase decision, which ranked behind taste at 39% and price at 29%.

When asked whether they were familiar with the Heart-Check Symbol from the Dallas-based American Heart Association, 26% said they were very familiar, 36% said they were somewhat familiar, 20% said they did not know much about it and 18% said they had never seen it. Thirty-one per cent said they would be much more likely to choose a product with the Heart-Check Symbol over another product while 44% said they would be somewhat more likely and 25% said the symbol would make no difference.

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